"...tolerance is respect and appreciation of the rich variety of our world's cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human."
Here at Demiks, we believe that learning languages and teaching languages are two essential keys to building an international community of peace and tolerance. In fact, we would take it a step further to say that learning new languages doesn't just promote tolerance, it promotes acceptance, discovery, and appreciation.
As language learners ourselves, we have firsthand experience with the ways in which learning new languages helps people to make connections across cultures, geographical distances, and politics. There are so many ways for people to draw lines of division between one another, but language learning is a way of drawing lines of connection.
On a personal note, I have been a language learner for my whole life (because as any language learner knows, the learning is never finished!) and an English language teacher for roughly the past decade, and I consider myself to be fantastically lucky to have both experiences.
Language learning reminds us that the way we see the world can be built into our language. When we stay within familiar structures, we take things for granted and don't always notice the beautiful details which surround us. Learning a new language means loosening some of these tight structures and seeing even more of the world.
Take, for example, transliteration (word-for-word translation).
Once I was sitting in Montreal with my Jamaican-Canadian neighbour and our French neighbour (from France). The Jamaican neighbour said, "I want to grow more plants in my apartment, but I need to get the stuff." The French neighbour said, "I have some earth. If you would like, I can bring you some earth."
He replied, "Oh that would be good, I need some earth."
Most native English speakers in this region would say, "I have some soil," but in French, you can use the word terre to mean earth or soil (or land!). Listening to this interaction, all I could think was how beautiful of an exchange of words and materials this was. How I had never really considered that growing plants indoors really is a way of trying to bring a little more of the earth into your home and life. And how the three of us, all born outside of this city, were now sharing language, and earth, and our own little community.
In honour of the International Day for Tolerance, we want to thank all of the language schools, language centres, language teachers, and language tutors out there who are doing their part to help make us all a little bit better at sharing some earth.
Learning a new language invites a wealth of cultural knowledge, experience, recipes, flavours, dances, celebrations, wisdom, and perspective into your life. Learning languages counters influences which seek to create fear, division, and exclusion. Teaching languages is an act of peacekeeping. Learning languages is an act of love.
At Demiks, our manifesto states, "We believe you can see a lot if you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, but you can live a lot if you learn their language." We built and designed our services to help language schools and language teachers bring their skills and their language lessons to students.
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