Ever since I read the famous Sapir Whorf Hypothesis : “the structure of a language determines or greatly influences the modes of thought and behavioral characteristic of the culture in which it is spoken,” I have realized the importance of language learning for young people, and how fundamental it is to child development, and learning as a whole.
There are words, and thus, concepts, which cannot be directly translated from one language to another. One can approach the meaning through close paraphrasing, but something is lost in translation.
Until recently, for example, there was no notion of the, “individual,” in Japanese culture, and thus no word to describe this idea. I do not know of another word for the German, “zeitgeist,” although “spirit of the age” may be an approximate paraphrasing. And it is well documented that Inuit people have numerous words for snow, because their very survival depends on it; we have a limited number.
But language is a living thing- new words for new ideas are continually appearing in our dictionaries, and languages are continually in process, as words from all over the world influence this evolution of a new language.
Enhanced communication between cultures enriches our vocabulary, as we borrow and cross-fertilize ideas from each other.
There is a sense in which multiculturalism and globalization have the potential to bring new languages, new ideas, and new ways of doing things, and indeed, the resources to negotiate, and tackle problems like global warming, across the globe.
One can see that a rich vocabulary and language learning strongly influence our capacity to think certain thoughts, to innovate, and to shape the world, as the world shapes us. Thus, it is crucial to children’s cognitive and behavioral development.
Because language learning enables children to think in an abstract way, there is a sense in which reading is a journey which takes children outside of their immediate world. Children learn to explore, and develop curiosity about things that are familiar, and things which are new, and beyond their immediate environment and experience.
A children’s adventure story can transport a child into unknown, exotic territory, where it is safe to take risks, and encounter danger, and excitement, knowing that they will survive to tell the tale.
Children’s stories encourage compassion and empathy in children, who identify with the hero or heroine, and root for him/her throughout their escapades. Storytelling is thus crucial to their emotional intelligence, resilience to overcome problems, and their emotional security and development.
One can see that a sense of adventure is as important for girls as it is for boys, and it is all to the good if we cultivate in our boys a sense of caring about others.
Whatever class, culture or creed, a child who has access to books can surpass his immediate environment, enter into worlds of possibilities, beyond any immediate constraints. This is why I support libraries, and charities which open doors for disadvantaged young people to have equality of opportunity for access to books.
I also nurture the idealistic dream that my books will be translated in to many languages, so that my cross-cultural message speaks to an international audience. Every child should experience social diversity.
“Snugs The Snow Bear,” has a universal message about global warming, which will impact us, and future generations to come, unless we heed the warning signs, and live our lives in an environmentally friendly manner.
For this I am grateful, that I grew up in a dual language family, who fostered and encouraged a love of learning, and, in particular, valued reading, and books.
Books encouraged my curiosity about language, about relationships and people, and about the world.
And, of course, travel is a great educator, even when it is of the virtual kind.
This post is contributed by Author Suzy Davies, Copyright 07/11/2016. All Rights Reserved.