Foreign languages, identity and intercultural competence
Hello, my name is Alexander. I'm a 17-year-old boy who was born in Italy and has been living in Brazil since 1992. I'm French because both my parents were born in France.
The bilingual school I study offers me Portuguese, French, English and Spanish classes. We live in Brazil, because my father thought moving from Italy to Brazil was more profitable for my future than returning to Paris.
I've been in contact with foreign languages and cultures all my life just like my parents. My grandparents were from Genoa in Italy and from Corsiga, in the south of France .At home I have always spoken French even though my parents tried sometimes to talk to me and to my sister in other languages in order to make us learn them faster.
I think, in my case, it is difficult for me to define which culture represents me best! I think all complete me! I’m a mixture between two and half cultures: (French, Portuguese and Italian). The only language I’m averse to is German. I think this feeling comes from my grandparents because they were occupied by Germans during the Second World War. So, this does not mean I am against it! I just think it is not as beautiful a language as French. I am aware that stereotypes may influence this idea but this is how I feel for the time being.
I definitely think that foreign languages should be fostered. It’s always a new experience: new words, new expressions help you feel more comfortable when exposed to a new culture. It also helps you to develop your ideas. The language is the key word for culture. It may also be required for a job application. Speaking foreign languages definitely gives people a better status! Our society needs “open-minded” people So being able to understand other cultures is essential . I admit French people tend to think their language is more “qualified” as it was used by great authors and are too proud of themselves. Maybe because of this lack of humility,they don’t feel comfortable learning languages
I believe that there are some languages that are more privileged than others: like English and Spanish, because they are “business” languages. In a future not so far from now, Chinese will be the most important language. I think the main challenges, when you’re trying to adapt to a new language and culture are, for example, the values that society asks you to respect. The vocabulary and grammar are also a tricky part when learning a new language.
I feel my studies definitely prepared me to face other cultures. Recently, I went to Vancouver in Canada and had no problems in adapting. I was happy because I learnt many things about the Canadian history and their life style and my English improved as well because reading and speaking English all day . My grades were so good I couldn’t believe it! So, yes! My studies helped me. I see traveling as a way to learn and improve your intercultural competence! You have to feel what’s like to be alone or in a family ten thousand miles from yours. You’ve got to be in “full immersion”.
The word identity is so flexible for me. I think I could change identities just like my socks! It’s something you can adapt in any situations: I could be myself in English anytime. This easy way to change and adapt myself comes from my passion for traveling and new cultures. The more you know them, the more you will be able to develop and improve your “Intercultural” identity. You need to have this “base” first, so than you can create a new you!