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The Importance of Language



Saudi Arabia


Remarks by the Honourable David Kilgour, P.C., M.P. Edmonton Southeast
Secretary of State (Latin America and Africa)
Southern Alberta Heritage Language Association
Calgary, October 9, 1999

                                                                                                                                                                                               I am delighted to be with you today to address the issue of Multilingualism for the New Millennium: the Economic and Social Benefits of Languages Education.

Language is obviously a vital tool. Not only is it a means of communicating thoughts and ideas, but it forges friendships, cultural ties, and economic relationships.

Throughout history, many have reflected on the importance of language. For instance, the scholar Benjamin Whorf has noted that language shapes thoughts and emotions, determining one’s perception of reality. John Stuart Mill said that "Language is the light of the mind." Lionel Groulx, a Quebec historian, put it this way: "Chacun retient toutefois que la suprême révélation du génie national, la clef magique qui donne accès aux plus hautes richesses de la culture, c’est la langue."

For the linguist Edward Sapir, language is not only a vehicle for the expression of thoughts, perceptions, sentiments, and values characteristic of a community; it also represents a fundamental expression of social identity. Sapir said: "the mere fact of a common speech serves as a peculiar potent symbol of the social solidarity of those who speak the language." In short, language retention helps maintain feelings of cultural kinship.

Here in Canada, we are blessed with two official languages flourishing in a multicultural and "forgiving society" as our new Governor General put it this week. Not only do we all have the opportunity to learn about other cultures; we instill the values of tolerance and respect in our children. The Austrian ambassador to Canada, Walther Lichem, speaks about the unique "plural identity capacity" of Canadians compared to most peoples who cannot be other than the culture they were born in.

Since the adoption of official bilingualism, we have been better able to provide to the younger generations the tools and knowledge for them to excel not only here at home, but beyond our national borders. This has allowed them to reach for the dreams and succeed in areas they may not have otherwise. For example, three of my four children have studied, or are studying, Spanish, which comes more easily after learning French. (I wish it worked so well for me.)

Language, of course, is knowledge, and in our world today knowledge is one of the key factors in competitiveness. Brains and knowledge are what create the prosperity and growth we tend to take for granted. In an advanced industrial society in an increasingly interdependent world, the knowledge of other languages becomes indispensable. Just think of how the advent of the Internet has changed our lives. For the last few years, millions of people across the world, who share common interests, are able to communicate with each other and exchange ideas. Not only are they able to do this due to the various technological advances, but also because they share a common language.

05:42 PM Dec 14 2008 |

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There's no doubt that languages are so important to us because we have to communicate with others no matter what kinds of langauges we use. However, there must be a common language so that we can interact with others from different countries. Perhaps English isn't that easy or that difficult as we think. But learning languages is a life-long thing. So just stick with it! Someday you can just speak as fluently as native speakers. And it's shame to make mistakes. :)

02:23 AM Dec 15 2008 |



Saudi Arabia

thanks     for your interacting with the subject. 

11:06 PM Dec 16 2008 |