Editorial comment: Language diversity

The Fiji Times Editor-In-Chief Fred Wesley, with garland, with teachers and students of Suva Sangam College during the opening of their Language Week at the school in Suva on Monday, July 16, 2018. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

YESTERDAY was an important day for students of Suva Sangam College who launched their Language Week with the theme, ‘Language diversity, our future’.

Students were asked whether they could imagine a world without languages? How would you communicate? How would you express yourselves? How would you say that you are feeling sick? That you are happy? How would you learn? They were reminded about a quote from the great Nelson Mandela, the president of South Africa from May 10, 1994 to 1999.

He said: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”

The quote reflects why language is important in our daily lives and students were reminded that it could be very important when they started off careers after school.

They were told about the importance of language to help us communicate, argue, learn and negotiate.

Language plays a very important role in the development of a person’s personality, they were reminded.

We use language to inform people around us of what we feel, what we desire, to question and understand the world around us.

We communicate effectively with our words, gestures, and the tone of our voices in a multitude of situations.

Students were told the importance of language in communication. The Fiji Times, they were told, has a wide readership from students to academics, workers and people who stay at home.

To be able to communicate effectively though, the presentation of news has to be presented in a way that is easily understood by all.

It is about keeping it short and simple or KISS.

Students were encouraged to also learn and appreciate a foreign language if they could.

It goes without saying that most Fijians were already bilingual in that we can speak English and either iTaukei or Hindi.

But in the business world, it may be helpful to learn another language. In 2014, it was estimated that the UK economy lost 50 billion pounds a year in lost contracts because of the lack of language skills.

At the time, the government insisted that its reforms were “driving a languages revival” in schools, according to the BBC in July of that year.

Perhaps we can imagine the economic benefits we can have if we had people speaking other languages.

To that end, language skills could be a critically important and positive element for the development of our nation.

It could aid in the mechanics of how our nation moves forward and assist us to be a catalyst for change.

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