The world we live in contains a multitude of diverse populations speaking in numerous varied languages.
Many countries today, because of increasing urbanization, international commerce, tourism, modern technology and immigration have started to embrace the concept of a society that is more multicultural.
Canada is a multicultural mosaic that encourages people to retain their original cultural identity. The ongoing inflow of immigrants brings with it increasing opportunities to learn different languages.
The importance of learning a second or third language is not merely limited to the ability of communicating with people who speak different languages. It has been shown that learning a foreign language results in achieving greater divergent thinking, creativity, and cognitive development.
Additionally, when people learn a new language, they become a valuable asset to the community in which they work and live. The capacity of communicating in another language is often a contributing factor to the overall achievement of professional and personal goals. Language is one of the main components of the culture of the people who speak it. Hence, learning a foreign language can be a comparatively easy way of absorbing another culture.
Becoming fluent in a different language can also teach you understanding, tolerance, and patience.
Fluency is comfort in the language. The International Language Roundtable system of measurement divides levels of proficiency to: elementary proficiency, working proficiency, professional proficiency, and native speaker. “Greeting fluency”, an initiative founded by Sam Sullivan, may not translate into being able to speak, read or write fluidly, but it invites individuals into the world of language learning, generates an interest in a different language and culture, and ultimately encourages getting to know people from a different culture through language.
In a city like Vancouver which is characterized by its multicultural atmosphere and where close to half of the population speaks a language other than English as their first language, understanding each other’s cultures and learning basic greeting phrases in the languages of our neighbours can help us give respect to their heritage and individuality and in Sam’s words “ensure that our futures are respectful and harmonious”.
I encourage fellow Vancouverites to install the free Greeting Fluency Aid App to become more familiar with the basics of a few other languages. You can get the Greeting Fluency App for iPhone, Android and Blackberry . Who knows, it may help you create personal connections that will last a lifetime!
Noosha Mehdian teaches at the Linguistics Department @SFU. She has been living in the heart of Yaletown for the past two years and loves its liveliness and accessibility.