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ironiya • this career-oriented blog—published on biweekly Wednesdays—looks at the positive and sometimes ironic sides of a kaleidoscopic range of workplace and life issues, from education and employment to discipline and discord •

learning another language: cursed words

It’s a very safe bet that everyone reading this has either directly had the following experience or knows someone who has—spouse, child, friend, relative or colleague:

You’ve taken three or four years of high-school French or Spanish, then another three or four more years in college (where the offerings are significantly broader, extending from Mandarin to Russian to Hindi and all points between)… and six months later you remember a few dozen words and cannot speak or read the language, as far from fluency as Paris is from Beijing. You’re intelligent and motivated, and did all of the requested homework, yet the results speak for themselves. I simply have no gift for languages, you think, and move on to other areas of study and projects that yield tangible results.

Given that being bilingual makes employees that much more valuable across our ever-smaller planet, that being bilingual engenders empathy and communication that transcend borders, that being bilingual stimulates the brain in myriad ways and can actually help to stave off or delay diseases like Alzheimer’s, why in the world are languages taught in a way that discourages progress, interest and results? Read More