“Language will continue to be the dominant force in our world that unifies or divides us. We have an obligation to strive toward efforts that use language to bring us together. Not to crush individuals’ languages or to force them to speak the dominant language, but to help them – to help all of us – be proficient in more than one language.”
In Episode 9, my guest, David Bong, takes a clear-eyed and optimistic view of the power of language to transform lives for the better. But is insightful to note, conversely, how the lack of linguistic and cultural understanding can divide and hurt the world community.
David notes: Language is who we are. It’s how we express ourselves. It reflects the image we have of ourselves….It can be a point of pride and identity. But it can also be a point of division: someone who does not speak your language is “the other.” His conversation, like his work in promoting individuals’ celebration of and measured success in language, explores how we can go from not valuing or resisting language study and use to welcoming, celebrating, and promoting language learning and multilingualism.
As a young person in a high school language class, David says, he didn’t know what language was for. But then he met a person from a different culture and language group whom he admired, and in following that language trail (to Japan), he discovered the magic of connecting with others to make himself known and to know others. In those moments, language became very much alive, and he knew exactly what it was for: bringing humanity, person by person, up close.
We’re at a real crossroads in our world. We are suffering together, yet approaches to the experience and story of that suffering vary according to culture. We have a common need to discover solutions to disease, conflict, and inequality; while insights into solutions are being considered and applied around the world, sharing those ideas can be hampered by lack of understanding of language for dialog and discussion.
What will our path be? Will it be celebration, collaboration, and entering into that most human of experience, language? Or will we trust only our own native tongue and culture, and rely solely on the perspective they bring?
Listen to this episode with David Bong to get a clear vision of the impact of our understanding of and attitude toward language on individuals and the world.
And consider: What is your identity and role in the world through your language?
Interested in learning more about language and cultural proficiency, and the impact on students, adults, and institutions? Looking to learn more about and/or apply Gallup Strengths in your team or organization? Check out the Services tab to see how I can be of help to you.
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