Does knowing a second language, make you a better citizen?

Happybunny

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Sep 9, 2010
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Seeing how well the other question went.;)
This time the bunny would like to know, if you think learning a foreign language makes you a better citizen/person?
 

maflynn

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May 3, 2009
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Let me ask you this question.

If a murder knows two languages is he a better citizen then a non criminal who only knows one language?

Knowledge in of itself does make someone better or worse. Its how they apply the knowledge, either to society or to themselves that affects whether they are a better person or a better citizen.
 

iStudentUK

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Mar 8, 2009
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Define "knowing"?

I only speak English well. However, I can hold a simple conversation in French, and say basic things in German and Italian. Whenever I go on holiday I always try and learn a few basic things just so I can say pleasantries, order food, ask directions etc. Nothing I hate more than those arrogant people who just yell in English.

So I think learning very basic words and phrases when you visit a country is good, but if you live in a country where everyone speaks one language there is no need (unless you want to of course).

If a murder knows two languages is he a better citizen then a non criminal who only knows one language?
That's a terrible example! I'm sure nobody would suggest learning a second language automatically and irreversibly makes you a 'good citizen'. The question is whether learning a second language is a factor in the equation.
 

Happybunny

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Original poster
Sep 9, 2010
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Define "knowing"?

I only speak English well. However, I can hold a simple conversation in French, and say basic things in German and Italian. Whenever I go on holiday I always try and learn a few basic things just so I can say pleasantries, order food, ask directions etc. Nothing I hate more than those arrogant people who just yell in English.

So I think learning very basic words and phrases when you visit a country is good, but if you live in a country where everyone speaks one language there is no need (unless you want to of course).
Thank you this what I was looking for as answer. I saw the programme on the BBC by Stephen Fry (Fry's Planet Word) and power of language.

----------

Let me ask you this question.

If a murder knows two languages is he a better citizen then a non criminal who only knows one language?

Knowledge in of itself does make someone better or worse. Its how they apply the knowledge, either to society or to themselves that affects whether they are a better person or a better citizen.
What murder and education have together ?
 

iStudentUK

macrumors 65816
Mar 8, 2009
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London
Thank you this what I was looking for as answer. I saw the programme on the BBC by Stephen Fry (Fry's Planet Word) and power of language.
I saw that a few months ago, it was very interesting. Languages were never my strong point, I said I try to learn things when I visit other countries but I'm not usually that successful! I hope people appreciate the effort at least.
 

GoCubsGo

macrumors Nehalem
Feb 19, 2005
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Knowledge in of itself does make someone better or worse. Its how they apply the knowledge, either to society or to themselves that affects whether they are a better person or a better citizen.[/QUOTE
Knowledge doesn't make you better, I disagree. How it is used does.
Does knowing another language make you a better citizen? No. Knowing another language equips you better and allows you to deal with a broader spectrum of people. I know, as a former California resident, that knowing Spanish would have done me some good. I pissed the opportunity away to learn it and I am where I am. I'm not a "worse" citizen because I don't know a second language, Spanish or otherwise.
 

Fazzy

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Oct 12, 2011
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As others have said, it doesn't make you a better person or citizen, but its a great skill to have. It also likely to make you more understanding of the cultures of the place the language is from.
 

416049

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Mar 14, 2010
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It doesn't make you a better citizen however it does help you with understanding a culture better or sometimes it is one of the things that may give you an advantage in getting a future job.
I personally think the more the better, in my opinion it is ignorant if a person plans on living in a place for a longer amount of time yet doesn't wanna learn the language but still benefit from other sides of that country.
 

Happybunny

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I personally think the more the better, in my opinion it is ignorant if a person plans on living in a place for a longer amount of time yet doesn't wanna learn the language but still benefit from other sides of that country.
Which would make you a better citizen of that country.
 

Tomorrow

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Mar 2, 2008
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I live in Texas. I'm fluent in English and know just enough Spanish to get by in most parts of the state (although Laredo, El Paso, and San Antonio push my limits). I don't think that not knowing any Spanish would make me less of a citizen, but knowing some makes it easier for me to understand and communicate with more people.
 

griffinsheila41

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Jan 21, 2012
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Seeing how well the other question went.;)
This time the bunny would like to know, if you think learning a foreign language makes you a better citizen/person?
I have the same question before as I got really bored with my english teacher, but then when I get into college this reminds me of how crazy I am thinking do i need to learn other language?? the answer is YES, you might not know where life take you at least you are ready for things. :rolleyes:
 

yg17

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Aug 1, 2004
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I don't speak any other languages fluently, but I know just about every insult and curse word there is in the Yiddish language, not sure if that makes me a better or worse person :p
 

maflynn

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May 3, 2009
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What murder and education have together ?
My point is that a good citizen is not based on his intellect. While extreme, my example illustrates this. Just because someone knows multiple languages does not equate to good citizenship.
 

Don't panic

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Jan 30, 2004
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not sure about 'citizen', but i think it can make you a better person in the sense that it is sort of automatically associated to be more open-minded (since it implies the acceptance that there are others that are different from us) and that can only be good.
especially in places where there is a strong insular mentality and bigotry, it can be very beneficial.
in addition i tend to always consider knowledge and education a positive, although as other said it does not necessarily translates into being a better person, nor by any stretch of the imagination it means that people that do not know multiple languages are bad people.

in other words, i think knowing multiple languages can make you better, but can hardly make you worse.
 

Happybunny

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My point is that a good citizen is not based on his intellect. While extreme, my example illustrates this. Just because someone knows multiple languages does not equate to good citizenship.
So an immigrant could live in a country for say forty years, and not speak a word of the host nations language?
This would in your opinion make him a good citizen of the host country.
 

Hellhammer

Moderator emeritus
Dec 10, 2008
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No. Languages are just one area of knowledge. You can be a well known mathematician and only know one language. It's all up to your career and interests - some people don't need them for work or simply hate languages.

So an immigrant could live in a country for say forty years, and not speak a word of the host nations language?
That's totally different. If you live in another country, that language isn't foreign anymore, it's the local language. Mother tongue is a different thing. You can't even gain citizenship without knowing the language in some degree.
 

maflynn

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May 3, 2009
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So an immigrant could live in a country for say forty years, and not speak a word of the host nations language?
This would in your opinion make him a good citizen of the host country.
That's not your original question. You asked "You think learning a foreign language makes you a better citizen/person?"

Of course It behooves an immigrant to learn the language of the country he's moved too. Would I be a better citizen in the US if I learned French, German or Latin? It will improve my intellect but it has no bearing on my citizenship.
 

firestarter

macrumors 603
Dec 31, 2002
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Seeing how well the other question went.;)
This time the bunny would like to know, if you think learning a foreign language makes you a better citizen/person?
I strongly believe that knowledge generally improves a person, so I'd say 'yes'.

Myself, I speak limited French and I've toyed around a bit with Japanese.

  • Obviously, speaking a foreign language gives you an opening into a different culture that you may not experience with just English. You can get to know people better and have them interact with you more naturally.
  • From a phiosophical point of view, language can embody a people's culture and world viewpoint. I would expect that being an expert in a foreign language would open you to new ways of thinking about things, as to an extent our ability to voice concepts is limited by our language. The 50+ Saami words for snow might be an example of this. The new language effectively liberates your mind.
  • A language can also reflect and encode societal structure. Knowledge of honourifics in languages such as Japanese and Korean gives you a much better insight into their culture from an anthropological point of view. You don't necessarily have to speak a language to gain some value here.
 

UlsterApple

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Aug 22, 2011
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I want my daughter to learn Chinese, then when they're the No1 superpower she can work for them and have a head start over all those trying to learn after the fact. :D
 

steviem

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May 26, 2006
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If you're a new citizen and the 2nd language you learnt is that country's official language, then yes.

I know GCSE level French and German, so yeah, I can get by as a tourist in places where these are their official language, but usually they are a key to showing locals the courtesy that I'm actually trying. They tend to know that I'm English from the accent.

Spanish is a language I'd like to learn, if only because I want to know what people are saying about me!
 

malman89

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May 29, 2011
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Citizen of the world? Maybe, as long as you're not an arrogant multilingual fool.

I think people should at least try to learn some basic phrases if they plan on traveling - even if they don't end up using them. Relocating? Definitely then.

At first I thought it was the oddest but coolest thing in the neighborhood of Rome that I lived in while studying there was a very settled/integrated Asian (I think Vietnamese) group. Chinese is the best in Italy, by the way, when you're missing meat in your diet.
 
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