Getting a lesson in the classroom

I just finished the first day of three consecutive days of work with a new client.  The material I am using is not new, but the context I am operating in is very new.  I have spent a lot of time recently out of the country and have talked about my experiences in some earlier posts.  Let me share a little about this week to put this in the proper context.

My newest client consists of a workforce where people with multiple languages work together on a regular basis.  This is both exciting and frightening for me as a trainer, especially since I am monolingual and delivering a series of sessions with translators in the room.

Here are the things I am learning from this work:

  • being monolingual in America today is a real hardship-I so wish I had taken a language or two when I was younger
  • people who learn English as a second language have a real advantage in the workplace-some of you might disagree with me on this, but multi-lingual Americans will own this country before the end of my lifetime
  • many Americans believe that all Americans should only speak English, all of the time-this is such a naïve and dangerous belief that it makes me wonder what these people might be thinking

Our country has functioned for far too long in an introspective and inward focused manner.  This has to change.  A great number of Americans now see this, but still only 18% of Americans speak a second language.  This has to change, and change it must, quickly.

So often we forget we are a nation of immigrants.  Knowing English is valuable on the world stage.  Americans need to understand that knowing Spanish, French, Arabic, Portuguese and Mandarin will only enhance their value in the new economy, today’s economy.

What do you think?

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