Learning a second language isn’t just good for your brain—it’s good for democracy, too


We live in narrow-minded times, wherein insularity and nationalism are pervasive in public discourse. If you’re among the many people looking for ways to take political action, one of the most effective things you can do is devote yourself to learning a new foreign language.
Learning a new language is a way to foster community and understanding between people of all political persuasions and nationalities. This can act both as a potent corrective force to any tendencies of narrow-mindedness we may be harboring, and as a form of political resistance. It’s a concrete action that all of us can take to move the needle toward a more just and open mentality.
To understand why this is the case, it’s useful to consider all the ways in which learning a language helps steel us against the prevailing small-mindedness of our times.
Full article :


which language would you learn for political action and why that one?


I’d learn Polish because it’s the most Catholic country in Europe and I think it could save the EU.


Here I thought the article would talk about learning another language could slow the onset of senility or dementia. I’d never considered the idea of learning a language so as not to resemble a certain president. That just isn’t on my radar at all.


So unAmerican! :laughing:


So, my interest in foreign languages has a use. Well, that’s good to know.


I already speak Spanish and have some knowledge of German. I would probably
learn French and Italian and Latin are two
other languages I would like to learn.
Russian and Arabic down the road.


I love languages. A lot.
I have formally studied 5 languages,but I can understand and read a couple more,but not write.
When I was in the third year of one,I would start another one. Evening classes,after work.
It has helped me socialize,study,… and has also helped my husband in his career.
But I learnt them for pleasure really.
Loved the thread.
Ps: ProVobis,I am not counting Latin,it would be a shame with you here…so I try and follow your lessons. And for free!! ;


Democracy? Where does one of those exist?


In what language?:wink:


I’m learning Polish. Slllooowly. But I’m making an effort, largely because there are so many polish people where I live.


Hmmm, this is odd.

First, in order to learn a language to the level that some of the effects they points out will occur is very difficult, and possibly impossible, without talking extensively with native speakers of that language (or learning from childhood, which seems precluded in the article). However, it is now considered rude to talk with people in their native language because then you are “othering” them.

Second, they say people looking for some political action to take should do this… which means that the people whom they would like to become more empathetic, etc, in their view, would probably not be among those whom they are trying to encourage to learn another language. (Maybe I should advocate that those in search of “political actions to take” should learn French, which I think makes a person more logical?)

(I would also like to point out that the difference in speaking English and Spanish may not hold for all who speak both languages if they did the study with people in the US who are bilingual because their family of origin is Spanish-speaking and their education was in English. People’s “family culture” differs from how they behave among non–family members.)


An unfortunate general truth-If you speak two languages, you are bi-lingual, if you many languages you are multi-lingual, if you speak one language you are an American.


I’ve wanted to learn another language for quite some time. What’s the best way? Is it to take a formal class or are there other ways?


There are a number of free online courses that are free. Duolingo is one of the better ones. There are also a number of free or very cheap apps that can at least teach you the basic phrases. It is not a bad idea to pick up one of the pocketbook guides such as Lonely Planet that covers the basics phrases and grammar and it let’s you get a better idea if you want to pursue the language further. A few non-costly investments can help you determine if you want to take it further such as classroom activity. There is no point in making a big investment initially until you are convinced you want to become more deeply dedicated to learning a specific language.


Sorry but I couldn’t help noticing this passage in the original article the OP referrred to -

Boroditsky also points to her work with the nomadic Kuuk Thaayorre people in Australia, who have a unique way of referring to direction not in egocentric coordinates (“my left leg“) but according to direction in space (“my north-western leg”). To be able to refer to objects in this way, they naturally have to pay constant attention to their orientation in space. This mandates an entirely different overall experience of the environment around them.

Make for an interesting version of the “Hokey Pokey” viz. “Put your north-western leg in, put your north-western leg out, and shake it all about … do the Hokey Pokey and turn it all about … now put your south-eastern leg in, put your south-eastern leg out, … and shake it all about… now put your south-western leg in, put your south-western leg out…”


Find some way to learn it, like classes or stuff online. But the most important thing is to try to use the new language as much as possible, even if all you can do is talk/think to yourself in the language. Also, read poetry in the new language if it rhymes, read other stuff, and write. Also, as you progress, translating can be a great exercise; it really helps develop an understanding of how they put together sentences and paragraphs. But the best thing is to speak with native or near-native speakers, esp if they will correct you. (Note: Spanish speakers rarely correct me; French speakers correct me frequently, yet I know I make more mistakes in Spanish!) I think Duolinguo allows for an exchange between people learning each other’s language, or has a bartering system for that.


i think they misspelled globalization


Quick! Someone call the Vatican and tell them it actually is okay to expect ordinary people to learn Latin!


Out of sheer curiosity. Anyone here speak French?

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