We Need More Bilingual Students
The translation industry is growing at double digit rates and shows every sign of continuing in this direction for the foreseeable future. Translation requires bilingualism. We are very pro-bilingualism.
It’s pragmatic. It’s also because we see all the incredible benefits to a bilingual populace and we embrace that, too. We see a multi-cultural, multi-lingual society as one that is richer and deeper, and, frankly, more fun than a culture that is vanilla bean.
Even though there’s proof that bilingual people get Alzheimer’s at a slower rate, earn (a little bit) more money, are more creative, have better cognitive functioning, and aid as a buffer against the other negative impacts of growing up poor, etc., etc., Americans seem determined to stay monolingual.
Monolingual. It Makes Sense, Really
As The New York Times put it in an article from 2000, “In American Education, Bilingual Means ‘Learn English'” Ghislaine Hudson, principal of Lycee Francais de New York, that teaches both English and French, reminds us that for most people in America, learning another language is not a priority, since English is the dominant language in the world. Indeed, even after three decades of mandated bilingualism in Canada, the minority is still bilingual. The reality of English being the language of business and science translates into the result that when it comes right down to it, not many of us really want to spend the effort to learn other languages.
Except that, from where we stand, everyone does not speak English.
We see the results every day of companies doing business in a foreign country, assuming that their partners speak English and that they will do business using American cultural standards. Contracts are written up and signed, and then the expensive lesson is learned…and we get more business.
We frankly prefer when things happen the other way around, and we go in before the trouble starts, offering translations of contracts and documents from the beginning. With a multi-lingual workforce, there is much more of a chance of understanding the language and culture of the country you are moving into; of knowing when you may need a professional translator.
We will continue to need qualified, bilingual translators into the foreseeable future. We’d love to see more and more people learning languages, taking the time to learn about new cultures and, hey, travel a bit, too.