Learning languages creates opportunity

By Morgan Jackson, Features Editor

Last week was National Foreign Language Week. The week celebrates the learning of languages and culture.

Oklahoma Baptist University currently requires all students to complete at least 2 modern foreign language classes. Most students take French or Spanish to fulfill this requirement.

Some students see the requirement of studying a second language to be unnecessary, but that is not the case. Learning a second language has benefits across many areas of life.

“Many students sadly don’t understand the value of knowing another language, and how beneficial it can be,” freshman physics major Nathan Murillo said. “I know many of the conversations I’ve had with students on campus about language classes has gone along the lines of ‘I’m never going to use this. Why do I need to learn it?’”

Dr. Lyda Murillo Wilbur, assistant professor of Spanish, has an answer to that very question.

“Learning a world language such as Spanish, French, or German opens the door for students to look at what is happening in the world, not only as a mere spectator but also as someone who can be a part of that world,” Wilbur said. “Without language acquisition visiting a world country is as if the student is going to a museum where he or she perceives the world from a distance and cannot feel, smell, taste, or move around what he or she sees. The student does not get to fully experience the world or be fully empowered to influence it.”

There are benefits to learning additional languages that reach beyond personal use.

“When I’m speaking to someone who’s native language is one I can speak, it makes communication much easier, and people are that much more willing to talk with you,” Murillo said. “Knowing a second language also brings a unique aspect to job applications and internship applications that employers like to see. I realize that is sometimes thought of as an overused cliché, but I have experienced how much it helps personally. Along with that, knowing a second language makes it significantly easier to pick up a third, fourth, fifth, and beyond.”

Kristin Dodd is a senior multilingual communications major deeply understands the importance of language learning. She can currently speak 4 different languages: English, Spanish, French, and Mandarin.

“I absolutely believe it is important to know more than one language,” Dodd said. “I think Americans often don’t see the need to learn a second language, as we live in a huge country. In Europe, if you drive for ten hours, you can be in a few different countries that all speak different languages, but if you drive for ten hours in the USA, you might never leave Texas.”
The United States is home to a culture that is heavily influenced by various cultures and people of various backgrounds, which makes learning languages other than English very significant and useful.

“Our country as we know it is built on immigrants and we live in an increasingly globalized culture and economy,” Dodd said. “Learning another language is not only practical but opens doors in communicating with that world that surrounds us.”

It is obviously very helpful to know the language that is spoken in the country that you are travelling in.

“Learning a language when travelling is not a necessity, but it is a benefit,” Dodd said. “You get better prices in the markets and are less likely to be cheated by taxi drivers. You learn how to navigate places that are more a part of the everyday life of people around the world. Iconic places like the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, and the Statue of Liberty are popular for a reason, but speaking a local language allows you to see and learn more about the local culture than many tourists never see.

Here on Bison Hill there are many bilingual and multilingual students and faculty.

“I was raised in a Spanish speaking country, the Republic of Panama,” Wilbur said. “At the time less than 14% of Panamanians spoke English. Therefore, my first language is Spanish. My experience learning English has been a journey. I came with my family to the United States in 1981 and I was immersed in a school where English was the only language spoken. Not many people looked like me or spoke Spanish. Back then the world felt different and was seen through a different set of lenses.”

OBU currently offers degrees in Spanish, multilingual communication and global studies, with many different minors to choose from, one of them being TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of a Second Language). This is similar to what is often called ELL or ESL.

Dr. Wilbur went to a school that offered English learning classes.

“I remember I had a kind teacher who took interest in helping me learn English, Mr. Gonzalez,” Wilbur said. “At the time, there were not many books in both languages, and the internet did not exist; therefore, learning American traditions or folktales, was not as easily accessible.”

OBU’s mission statement is: “As a Christian liberal arts university, OBU transforms lives by equipping students to pursue academic excellence, integrate faith with all areas of knowledge, engage a diverse world, and live worthy of the high calling of God in Christ.”

Learning a second language could prove to be essential to engaging a diverse world. Dr. Wilbur wants to encourage students to seize every learning opportunity they have during their time at OBU.

“Language is a tool,” Wilbur said. “More specifically, this tool can be used as a key to open new doors to new and exciting places all over the United States and the World. There are people groups from all over the world including the United States who are waiting to meet them; new people who also need to know about Jesus!

Wilbur said she wanted to challenge every OBU student to find ways to learn another world language and not to be afraid to listen, speak, read and write.

“All students should take advantage of the language classes offered at OBU and take the time to travel and learn another world language,” Wilbur said.

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