American Global Illiteracy Essay

1282 words - 6 pages

American Global Illiteracy
In an increasingly interconnected world, America remains alarmingly isolated due to cultural rigidity. Though often dubbed a “melting pot” of people and ideas (Wolff, 2), this is quite the misnomer. Most Americans have no experience with anything outside of the country. In fact, almost 64% have never travelled outside their own familiar borders (Fischl, 1) and less than 25% can speak a foreign language conversationally (Wolff, 2). This lack of global literacy comes at a high price. In order to thrive internationally in areas such as economics and politics, the United States needs people proficient in the global culture (Skorton/Altshuler, 1). Fortunately, through the cultivation of foreign language, integration of foreign literature, and encouraging international travel, these deficits can be overcome.
There is a joke among many Europeans that goes like this, “What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual. What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call someone who speaks only one language? American.” The message is, unfortunately, true. While Americans stay resolutely loyal to their mother tongue, a language native to only 5% of the world’s seven billion people (Wolff, 8), about half of Europe’s population speaks at least two languages (4). More than 80% of European students are multilingual (4) in a time when American schools are making cuts to foreign language education (Skorton/Altshuler, 2). Many High Schools have curriculums that require students to study a foreign language for at least two years, in accordance with the admissions expectations of numerous colleges and universities. However, this cursory education is not sufficient to facilitate a generation of international growth. As social technologies shrink the distances between great ideas and those who could put them into action, American children are missing out on countless opportunities as they literally go in one ear and out the other without even a chance of consideration.
The advantages of multilingualism are nearly innumerable. As America is one of the world’s largest and most powerful countries, a crucially important reason to bolster language education is in regards to international relations. Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa, once said “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” America needs politicians, ambassadors, and diplomats who can connect to leaders of other nations on that level; business leaders to promote American interests abroad; and soldiers who can relate to the common people that they are fighting to protect. All of these endeavors require multilingualism.
A second example of insufficient imported ideology is the lack of translated literature in the country. In a given year, only a meager 3% of the almost three hundred thousand books published in the United States...

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