The Importance Of Learning A Foreign Language
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I was born in Indonesia, a country with over 250 million population scattered across its 17,000 islands. When I came to Australia four years ago, I noticed that most Australians with Indonesian background or mixed raced Indonesians do not know how to speak Indonesian.
So, I began to question myself: how important it is to learn a foreign language? I came up with few answers…
Learning a foreign language allows you to build connections
If you didn’t know, Indonesia is a country with over 300 native languages. Growing up here, you would think that my mother tongue would be Bahasa Indonesia. However, my first language is a dialect from the South Sumatera province called Palembang.
According to Asian Languages and Literature from the University of Washington, “While Bahasa Indonesia is spoken as a mother tongue by only 7% of the total population, it is the national language and is used by 200 million people as their second language.”
If my mother tongue were not my local dialect, I would have struggled to communicate with my relatives. The locals take pride in speaking their local dialects.
Fun fact, if you travel to Indonesia, you will most probably get a discount if you can speak in their local dialect.
Although our local dialect is our mother tongue, most Indonesians can speak Bahasa Indonesia as it is our official language.
Bahasa Indonesia is commonly used for business and administrative purposes as well as by education institutions and mass media throughout the country to facilitate communication among the Indonesians.
My mind began to wander to the times when my family would travel to different provinces. We would visit some local shops to buy some souvenirs. Although the staffs would generally speak in a local dialect, they would immediately switch to Bahasa Indonesia when they talk to customers.
If I hadn’t been able to speak Bahasa Indonesia, I would be stuck in my tiny little bubble in South Sumatera and struggle to communicate with everyone else across the country.
Learning a foreign language will help you see the world
When I was in primary school, my parents sent me to study in a school that uses English as the medium of instruction. I struggled a lot in the beginning as none of my parents speaks English.
As a kid, I was timid to speak English in front of anyone. I thought my English was terrible, and I didn’t know enough vocabularies to express how I feel.
I think it took me about six years to finally have the confidence in speaking English.
It was not until I was in middle school that I realized how blessed I am to understand English. That day, I wanted to share an online article with my parents. Since they do not speak English, I needed to find the translated version. However, I couldn’t find any!
There is limited information that you can have when you do not know how to speak a foreign language. By learning English, I was able to gain so much more information about everything I want to know.
Learning a foreign language deepen your connection to other cultures
If there were one language that I regret not learning, it would be Mandarin. As an Indonesian with a Chinese background, my parents wanted me to know Mandarin. Their generation lost touch with their mother tongue because its use was banned in the country.
As a young kid, I hated learning Mandarin. I would be sent to after-school Mandarin class and hated every bit of it. I was not good at it. I felt embarrassed when I speak the language because my friends would laugh at me.
Truth be told, I was proud to say to people that I was terrible in Mandarin. I boasted of my inability to speak a foreign language.
Looking back, I feel so silly. I wish I hadn’t done what I did.
When I moved to Australia, I had a part-time job in a café where I worked with many Chinese people. That’s the moment that I realized that I should have taken my Mandarin classes seriously.
As a 21-year-old third-generation Chinese Indonesian, I know nothing about my history. I did not know even know the name of my great grandparents. Even if I did, I won’t be able to read their names because they would be written in Mandarin. This also means that I won’t be able to look for their names in the Chinese registry database.
Sure, learning a foreign language gives you various advantages in life. However, you cannot possibly know all 7,000 languages.
So, what is the solution?
Artificial Intelligence Translator
Yes, you heard me right. Artificial Intelligence Translator.
To translate an English article into Indonesian, I would need to think about how I can translate the article sentence by sentence. With the help of AI Translator, it can automatically translate the article, and I just have to make minor changes to make sure that the translation is accurate.
AI translator saves me so much time.
You might wonder, who provides AI translation services?
You are at the right place!
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