If you know many languages – so many times you are a human

22 січня 2021 року

Imagine a situation where you can't use the language under normal circumstances. Then any communication is nullified: it is impossible to make a purchase in a store, order home delivery, call a taxi, or even call a doctor. Without language, a person completely falls out of the daily rhythm of life and is forced to stay out of social communication.

What about people with speech disorders? Yes, there is sign language and writing that help people with certain needs to remain full members of society. However, sign language, writing and even Braille, which are used by visually impaired people, were created on the basis of a certain national language, without the knowledge of which any communication, even with these sign systems, becomes impossible.

Understanding this fact makes it possible to understand the problem faced by foreigners visiting Ukraine. It should be noted that the vast majority of our fellow citizens have an insufficient level of knowledge of foreign languages – Including English, which in a globalized world has become a "lingua franca" for many countries. On the other hand, the behavior of typical people from the former Soviet Union abroad has long been the subject of ridicule – precisely because of the lack of at least a basic knowledge of foreign languages.

The roots of this situation should be sought in the past. During the Cold War, when the Soviet Union opposed the West, and above all the United States, knowledge of a foreign language turned a person into a potential enemy: he had at least a hypothetical opportunity to communicate with foreigners. Thus, a person could inform them about the shortcomings of Soviet life or be exposed to their "destructive" influence.

But it was also impossible not to learn foreign languages at all. First, it destroyed the prestige of the Soviet educational system, and secondly, the country needed specialists who knew foreign languages at a professional level, and as you know, it is better to start studying any science at an early age. The answer to this difficult situation was the "Solomon's decision": foreign languages were taught, but at a very low level. All those who sought in-depth study had to go to specialized schools.

Ukraine's independence and, as a result, the opening of a large-scale "window of opportunity" did little to change the situation. Foreign languages in the vast majority of Ukrainian schools are still taught according to Soviet traditions. The result of the dominance of this ingrained practice is the lack of Ukrainians not only knowledge of English, German or French, but also basic communication skills in any language other than native and Russian.

It is clear that in today's globalized world such a situation is unacceptable. Most modern Ukrainian employers are extremely interested in knowing at least English among their employees. Employment in some areas, including IT, banking and international business, is not possible without knowledge of several languages. Given the low level of school English, IT executives often pay employees for specialized courses in which they can improve their language skills to better perform their job responsibilities, which, incidentally, includes communication with foreign colleagues and customers.

On the other hand, the need for quality knowledge of at least English is required not only by employers, but by globalization, which has covered not only the field of professional activity of modern man. Thanks to open borders, low air fares and social networks, the world has become more transparent. Another important advantage based on knowledge of foreign languages is that these skills not only give modern man free communication and movement, but also directly affect the level of his political freedom. In a globalized world united by the Internet, it is difficult to imagine an authoritarian attack on freedom of speech. Even today's most odious political regimes cannot fully control the global information network. With knowledge of foreign languages, modern man can always find an opportunity to join alternative sources of information.

However, why is English, and not Chinese, Spanish or French, still the world's leading language and necessary for study? According to the United Nations, English is the mother tongue of more than half a billion people on Earth; about a billion more are fluent in it, and about six hundred million people know the language at a basic level. In addition, during the twentieth century, English became the language of international communication, and the vast majority of the media duplicated their own news columns in this language. English is the official language of more than sixty countries, the language of diplomacy and world business, science and pop culture.

So, isn't it too late to start learning English if you wasted that opportunity back in school? Although it is never too late to learn, the sooner you start practicing a foreign language, the faster you can learn it. In particular, students and teachers of the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine can improve their knowledge of several languages or start learning them "from scratch" at the Center for the Study of Foreign Languages, which is cared for by the department of English philology. There are English, French, German, even Turkish and Korean languages to choose from. These courses provide future farmers, managers, programmers, social workers and anyone interested not only in gaining useful practical skills, but also in obtaining a certificate of knowledge of a foreign language, which will be a significant "trump card" in employment.

Therefore it is not necessary to waste time, after all here, as well as in any other business, the main thing – desire.

Anton Fomenko,
associate professor of the department of English philology


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