German, French and Spanish are still offered at many colleges and universities, and a number of schools still require foreign language to get a degree. But with high-speed travel and communications bringing other parts of the world closer, more languages are drawing the interest of students. Michael Everson at the University of Iowa teaches lesser-known languages. Everson says some are told they might want a language to study abroad or for some national-defense purpose or the global economy — but some won’t ever have those needs. rather, he says, it gets back to what a liberal-arts education is all about. Everson says public schools as well as colleges should offer lesser-knopwn languages like Farsi, Yoruba and Japanese. Language and liberal-arts teachers hope to have their students see a different view of the world, and experience different realities, as he says other people outside the US don’t share America’s world view. Everson says people in other countries are writing history textbooks that would amaze an American reader, as they reflect their point of view, not ours, on important events. One thing you can do to understand how the Chinese, Japanese, Spanish or French understand the world is to learn how their culture’s encoded in the world. He says often someone will ask how to say something in Chinese, for example, for which there’s no word in their language. He adds that language is a community resource, keeping alive the heritage of the country’s many cultures. You have to be “cognitively” ready to get things, whatever age you are, and if you’re busy dealing with a language you can’t understand, your window of opportunity is closed. Everson says understanding a foreign language is a way to view the world through another culture’s eyes. He says there may be thousands of languages in the world today, including dialects and variants of other tongues.
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