One or two decades ago we still lived in a world in which contacts with other cultures were rather peripheral. Sure, there used to be immigrants from other countries and then there was of course some contact when we traveled. But there was no real need for us to dive deeper into other cultures as we just stayed for our two week all inclusive vacation and the immigrants lived their lives separated from ours. Needless to say that there have always been exceptions but then the exception proves the rule.
Moreover, the impact developing countries and regions at the other side of the globe had on our daily life was very small if existent at all.
Globalization changed and continues to change that dramatically. In today’s world everything is connected with everything and even minor accidents in a remote part of the world can have a big impact on our lives in Europe or Northern America. Foreign companies buy shares in European companies and all of a sudden you lose your job. US companies expand into other regions and all of a sudden you move to Shanghai or Buenos Aires. Demonstrations and uprisings in the Middle East affect the oil price, pirates in the Indian Ocean affect global trade.
And we are pretty well informed about all of the above as we can watch or follow the events live on the Internet and discuss it with the people around us, some of them might even come from those regions. Today, we know that there is more than our country and that changed our mindset about who we are and what our place in a global context is.
Just a short time ago, most of us could not care less to learn Chinese but nowadays many want at least their children to have some kind of knowledge about the uprising global power house. Who knows if they won’t live and work in Shanghai one day? Chances are increasing that it will become a valid career option.
Because we have to, we become more and more interested in other cultures and languages. One phenomenon was and still is the rising number of Western students learning Arabic since 9/11 to better understand the culture.
On the other hand, tourists don’t want to be seen as the typical foreigner visiting a country anymore. They know that speaking at least some sentences and understanding some key points of the culture will help them to have a better and also more meaningful experience and here is where big opportunities lie. Start-ups in the language learning sector that offer a cultural context around the vocabulary and grammar rules one needs to learn anyway.
Picture: jdurham at morguefile.com