Learn to embrace differences through language

We can all agree that the country has become divided and we should start examining how we can bring people back together.

“If you come to my country, you gotta learn my language.”

That was the one sentence that caught my attention while I was queuing in the ever-busy line at the DMV earlier this week and I couldn’t help but pay attention to the conversation between the two people in line behind me.

One of them was a man from Brazil and the other was a woman who was born and raised in San Francisco. The man believed that if we want to survive and make the most of our experiences in a foreign country, we ought to learn its language.

I couldn’t agree more.

As a foreigner living in the U.S. for more than six years, I find it fascinating when I meet people who have been here longer and still don’t speak English. My previous landlord came to America in the 70’s and is still unable to speak a word in English.

He was once issued a ticket by mistake, simply because he couldn’t explain himself to the law enforcer. This is just one example of a misunderstanding due to language barriers that happen across the country.

I understand that it is hard to learn a new language, but it is essential if you decide to move to a country where they speak a different language. According to Luis von Ahn, the creator of Duolingo, there are 1.2 billion people who are trying to learn foreign languages worldwide everyday.

As globalization becomes inevitable, we can no longer remain stagnant by speaking only one language if we are trying to catch up on the trend.

Mark Zuckerberg notably conducted an interview in Beijing where he spoke entirely in Mandarin in 2014. The most impressive part was that he had only studied the language for four years.

Although Zuckerberg is not the most fluent Mandarin speaker, he showed the effort of trying to understand the Chinese culture and its people as a sign of respect to his wife’s Chinese heritage.

Of course, not everyone has the resources to learn a new language like Zuckerberg did. But if immigrants are surrounded by English speakers on a daily basis, why not use that to their advantage and push themselves to learn the language?

Instead of surrounding ourselves with people of a similar background who speak the same language, we should go out and immerse ourselves in other people’s cultures to broaden our horizon.

I strongly believe that language is the foundation of civilization. By learning the language of the country we live in, it would allow us to appreciate the differences between cultures and people as we are likely to experience ethos by sharing a common language.