If you live in the southern part of our nation, it is very helpful to speak both English and Spanish! Understanding the language gives you insight into how the culture makes sense out of events and circumstances. It allows you not only to understand things from the frame of that culture, but it also allows you to project/predict responses to unforeseen circumstances that may occur.
Speaking both languages allows you to feel “at home” in circumstances where either language is being spoken. You can understand and interact as needed. At times you may be called upon to help someone who is not fluent in the language of the moment. It feels good to be able to help folks who feel left out.
All of the international students on U.S. campuses are at least bi-lingual and many are tri-lingual … with some quadra-lingual or more! The Dallas Texas Sheriff’s Office has an officer who speaks parts of 23 different languages. He is always in demand!
Someone has said that a person really does not understand their own culture until they learn the language and culture of another ethnic group. The second cultural understanding provides tremendous perspective to evaluate one’s primary culture against. Since most of culture is tacit (unconscious), we may not even realize that we hold a particular value until it is challenged or threatened by another competing value.
Take time with your international student friends to talk about values and why they are important to each of you. In the process your relationship will improve, and you will learn to appreciate another perspective or value.
Principles cited in this blog: Many values are unknown until compared with another competing value. Learning another language and the attendant culture can be very enriching personally and professionally.
Application for ISI ministry: Discussing values with your international student friends can be very informative and personally enriching, plus it builds mutual understanding and relationship.
Next blog topic: Becoming Bicultural: The Not-So-Good Parts
Doug Shaw with Derrah Jackson