Opinion: Do you want to be a polyglot?

Bruno Beidacki is a sophomore journalism major. Contact him at [email protected]

Bruno Beidacki

If you are not familiar with the term “polyglot,” here is my definition of it: someone who has advanced knowledge and is able to communicate in multiple languages. As a polyglot myself, this definition summed up all of my knowledge on the subject. Well, at least until this past weekend.

After going to New York City and attending the 2015 Polyglot Conference, my mind is now filled with information about linguistics and foreign languages. It is true I did not become an expert on the history of the Indo-European languages and I did not become fluent in Finnish, but I certainly am more passionate about the topic. And you should be, too.

Renowned radio host Barry Farber told an eye-opening joke during his talk on Sunday. “What do you call someone who speaks two languages?” he asked. “Bilingual. Three? Trilingual. Four or more? Polyglot. But how about he who speaks only one? Well, you call him an American.”

Although the joke is clearly exaggerated and plays with a stereotype, it is partially true. It is visible that Americans are less prone to study foreign languages. Yes, English is the universal language and you can find someone that speaks it basically anywhere in the world. However, that is not a good enough excuse to justify the lack of interest Americans have in learning French or Russian.

Why should you care? Communication is one of the most important skills in today’s world. In a globalized society, you never know when you can be transferred abroad for work or get an opportunity to reach your goals in a different country.

The job market nowadays is so competitive that speaking a foreign language can be the difference between landing your dream job or being unemployed. That is true not only for careers in education or business, but also in jobs such as IT engineering and nursing.

Being prepared to take these chances and standout should be incentive enough. If not, how about traveling around the world and exploring the most breathtaking landscapes or interesting major cities? The traveling experience becomes a lot more entertaining and enjoyable when you are able to communicate with locals and consume that place’s culture.

Finally, learning foreign languages helps us become more sensitive to social inequality and cultural differences that are present in our daily lives. When one studies the language and consequently the traditions of another country, one learns to be aware of diversity.

It is understandable that many Americans see the whole process of learning a foreign language as a long, complicated and arduous journey. However, as a Portuguese native speaker from Brazil currently studying in an English-speaking country and university, I assure you the rewards outweigh the efforts. Speaking multiple languages has provided me incredible experiences and I am sure it can do the same to you. And to be honest, being able to say out loud that you are a polyglot feels extremely good.  

Bruno Beidacki is an opinion writer for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].