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Learning languages is not a luxury for people in Asia, it is a necessity of life. To be bilingual or multilingual is not an easy feat but it is a journey that everyone looks forward to embracing if the opportunity arises. Unfortunately not everyone is capable of mastering two languages at one time, so introducing two languages to kids when they are very young, with at least one as the mother tongue, is highly recommended.

There is nothing wrong with learning languages; so many parents will pay to have their kids to learn a 2nd or 3rd language in this part of the world.

Learning a new language gives people hope of friendship when times are hard, comfort that somewhere out there different groups of people can understand and listen to their voices. Kids love to meet other kids who do not speak their language because they are attracted to the idea of discovering contrast and difference. Their world is one of discovery; they are entrusted to take on this journey. If they have the means to learn several languages, we ought to allow them that opportunity.

For us, the opportunity to learn languages did not come in the form of financial support. In fact, schools provide the opportunity by making it compulsory to study a 2nd language and English as the first language. My siblings went through education knowing only that we had to study two languages in school

People who are reluctant to send their kids to learn a second language give these reasons:
1. Their kids will not need it in the society where they live;
2. They are concern that if their kids learn to appreciate the peculiarities and strangeness of other cultures, they pay less attention to their own culture;
3. they did not learn two languages. So why should their kids study languages?
4. Success does not depend on proficiency in many languages but fluency in just one;
5. they cannot afford the tutition fees and the time to send thir kids for enrichment classes;
6. they have no idea where to begin helping their kids to learn a second language; or
7. the schools do not offer the language.

Whatever the reasons or excuses, there was no way out for us. Taking two languages was compulsory. (In my days, we did not come across any foreign student who was exempted from a second language. However over the last few years, I understand that any foreign student can opt out of the 2nd language programme, if there is a valid reason. )

We all know the benefits and advantages of knowing more than one language far outweigh that of knowing just one. So many new findings to prove this so called truth are already being published* and as even experts are agreeing that languages should be taught early to kids, parents who are reluctant to send their kids to learn more languages are outnumbered.

Where I come from (that is Singapore), people are so determined to have their kids excel in more than two languages, that tutors have no problem looking for students to teach. The education business thrives because there are people who are willing to pay the fees. Expert language tutors have the opportunities to publish their own books and make a living as writers. Where there is demand, there is need for people to supply. Despite having no natural resources, the human resources thus become marketable. People start to have jobs and see reasons to make a living as educators.

Where I come from, people look past underlying racial differences, preferring not to dwell on the negatives (prejudice or discrimination) for the sake of their kids’ future in a multilingual society. There is always tomorrow to look forward to because everyone accepts these differences as part of life and will educate their kids to learn that these differences will teach them resilience, tolerance and understanding. Kids learn to blend in with other cultures and practice great virtues. For us, languages are essential part of our lives.

This post has been written in reference to an article by a Harvard student stressing the importance of foreign language study & being bilingual.

*(E.g. Learn a foreign language to age-proof your brain