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Greenburgh Public Library Blog

Read Between the Lines: Learn a New Language!

by Diana Lennon on 2019-09-10T19:46:04-04:00 in Culture, Literacy, Adults, Latinos | Comments

There currently seems to be global focus on people’s differences more than our similarities. This divisive attitude separates and alienates us from each other, particularly in the United States, where we are a nation composed of people from many places. Part of my job is to look at what we have in common, and to bring people together to build personal relationships and find common ground. In three blog posts, I will tell you about how I bring diverse people together, and how library programs show value and respect for people’s differences while building a spirit of community. I hope you’ll join us--and read between the lines to see the important role we play in making a "community".

Do you speak more than one language? Are you bilingual and grew up speaking two languages? Are you fluent in languages other than your native tongue? With the 2020 U.S. Census just around the corner, it is interesting to see the growth in the number of people in the U.S. who speak more than one language. In 1980, over 23 million Americans spoke a second language; in 2017 that number grew to more than 64 million who “speak a language other than English”.

While this correlates with the demographic changes in our population, it is not limited to those who have moved here, but also includes many people who have a deep interest in learning languages. We have a number of library patrons who love learning languages, and who speak more than English! Skill levels range from basic communication needed for travel to those fluent in multiple languages—called a “polyglot”, from the Greek for someone who speaks many languages. 

At the library, we have a Spanish~English Conversation Group, which has been meeting on Wednesday afternoons for years, and has grown to a group of forty or so life-long learners and multilingual friends. We recently started a French Conversation Group, and we have Italian Conversation which will begin again on Oct. 16.  All of these groups are very welcoming, and all you need is a strong desire to learn the target language. We also have English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes, which also begin in October. To get started, visit our online resource “Learn a Language” and discover all that the library offers!

You might know a polyglot, or you might be one yourself, and are aware of the incredible advantages this skill provides. If not, you might be wondering what are the benefits of learning languages? Here are a few:

  1. It’s good for your Brain Health.
  2. It helps to break the ice when you meet people from other cultures.
  3. You will gain interesting friends, and find out how much you have in common with them.
  4. You can communicate with perhaps millions more people than you do now!
  5. You can watch foreign films and read books written in their original languages.
  6. You can order from menus with a sense of pride at your ability to pronounce and understand all the fabulous food choices. 
  7. You likely will have a better understanding of our global community, whether that is right here in the Greenburgh area, or as you travel throughout the world.
  8. You likely will deepen your understanding of your own language and culture.
  9. The more we understand each other, the better off our world will be. (While there might not be proof here, many people believe this to be true.)
  10. Those who insist on “English only” or say that their “relatives had to learn English when they arrived here” are likely closing themselves off from both their own cultural background and the interaction with others who are different from them. Which brings me back to the first paragraph: There currently seems to be a global focus on people’s differences more than our similarities. This divisive attitude separates and alienates us from each other, particularly in the United States, where we are a nation composed of people from many places.

Are you going to let the fear of others and their differences be your approach to life? Or are you willing to learn a new language and reap the benefits?

         

 


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