Dear WLC students, alumni, and friends:
Greetings from Ames! The summer has been relatively quiet until the pace quickened overnight with the sudden arrival of what is sure to be Iowa State’s largest student population ever. In fact, it seems that the streets of Ames and the serene foot and bike paths on campus have been overtaken by active and eager groups of students. We are thrilled to see them back!
As for our faculty, many spent the summer in exotic international locals undertaking research projects, directing study abroad programs, or attending conferences and symposia. Still others offered interesting courses or directed internships or service learning projects. I myself was in Spain, France, and Austria for both personal and professional reasons.
What amazed me most during my own travels was the number and variety of languages I heard. Who would have thought that I would hear Arabic, Spanish, and German (not to mention French!) in a little hill town in the south of France? It seems that the use of different languages is everywhere. And where I have recently seen it most is in the headlines.
I do not know if you have noticed, but during the past year, stories about the significance of learning a second—or third—language are everywhere. Here is a snapshot of just a few of the more interesting titles:
- “Conquering the Holy Grail of Second Language Fluency” (Huffington Post – August 1, 2014)
- “Learning a Language is for Life, not just for Business” (Forbes – April 17, 2014)
- “What is a Foreign Language Worth” (The Economist – March 11, 2014)
- “How Language Seems to Shape One’s View of the World” (National Public Radio – January 2, 2014)
- “7 Reasons Why It’s Good to Speak Another Language” (Huffington Post – June 14, 2014)
It’s clear to us–as I hope it is to you— that business, industry, government, and social organizations have come to understand the value of learning a second language. We know, for example, that job candidates who can speak a second language get more interviews and are often offered a higher starting salary. Studies also suggest that companies are seeking more second language speakers than ever before, but the pool of qualified applicants is not as strong as it could be. Our department is doing our very best to train students who are proficient speakers and knowledgeable global citizens who will become creative and critical thinkers in the global marketplace. In short, we are working to meet the demands of the marketplace while contributing meaning to one’s life through the appreciation of global affairs.
Whether for employment or for enjoyment, there is no downside to learning another language. Indeed, I have never met anyone who is worse off for having learned to speak in another language. After all, speaking a second language is crucial to understanding other cultures, their traditions, and history—and it just might be the key to a successful career. Therefore, as we embark on another fall semester when students from all over the world come to our department to take courses in language and culture, it seems to me especially timely to remind you about the value of language learning.