As we approach the 21st century and as the idea of a “global village” is fast becoming a reality, it is vital that we enlarge our worldview and reach an understanding of, and appreciation for, the cultures of the other peoples who share the planet with us.
As cultural beings, we are raised with an certain way of giving order to the world around us. Very soon, these “cultural filters,” which allow us to make sense of reality and shape it, become fixed, invisible and unconscious; they are part of our worldview which – as unique as we might think it is – rests on the shared values of a particular linguistic community.
This network of basic assumptions which affects everything in our life (love, family, friendship, child rearing, work, sense of community and of our place within it, view of nature, sense of self, etc.) is never put into question until it is brought to our awareness by the clash with another system, different from our own.
Language, which is the bearer of culture par excellence, opens the door to the world of the other and gives us the means to apprehend other ways of viewing our common world and our common humanity.
Why study Spanish? Beyond the argument just made for the truly cosmopolitan view, there are, for the US citizen, compelling internal and external reasons. First, one has to consider the rise of the Hispanic community within our midst. The US Census Bureau shows that the Latinos residing in the United States total about 27 million people and make up almost 10% of the population. Projections indicate that, by the year 2050, almost half of the US population could be Spanish speaking. This fact has strong implications for employment, not only in the Southern belt ( from Florida to California ) but also in all major cities of the nation. In the job market, the bilingual employee will increasingly have the edge over other candidates, especially in the service sector. But employment is only part of the picture. The Hispanic community with its pride in its old traditions – native and European – its own cultural diversity, its strong family values, its artistic genius and its rich literature, will make its own unique and distinct contributions to the living cultural tapestry of this nation – today and tomorrow. Learning Spanish is essentially learning to relate to our next door neighbor and, more than ever, this makes sense.
On the external front, the world is witnessing the formation of new international alliances amd mega trade-zones that are progressively taking shape. After the European Common Market and the Pacific Rim Nations Alliance, the recently signed North American Free Trade Agreement ( NAFTA ) between The US, Canada and México, opens the door to incredible opportunities – cultural and otherwise – with our immediate neighbors to the South, and beyond to the whole South American continent. Once more, but on a broader scale, the possibilities for enrichment and cross-pollination at the level of things ( trade, industry, art ), people ( associations, business, travel, cultural activities), ideas ( new concepts in international relations, governance, organization ), and values (respect, tolerance, mutualism ) are unsurpassed.
Learning a language can liberate the individual from the solipsistic confines of the monolingual view with its attendant parochialism. It can expand horizons, stimulate the mind, feed curiosity, provide opportunities for employment, travel and entertainment, enhance co-operation among neighbors and build tolerance among peoples. At this particular juncture in the history of this nation, Spanish is the smart choice for the smart citizen.
It describes the importance of spanish in tha US
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