Hello Siberia, or Why Study English and Other Languages
Hello, this is Steve Kaufmann and hello Siberia. This is in response to a YouTube video that I received from an English teacher in Siberia who asked me to do a video to explain to his 14-year-old students why they should learn English. So, I'm going to speak slowly, I'm going to make this video in English and then I'm going to make another video on the same subject in Russian for these 14-year-old students somewhere in Siberia.
First of all, let me say I have been to Siberia. I was in Khabarovsk in 1975 and I flew from Khabarovsk to Moscow. It was a beautiful day and the scope, the size of Siberia is unbelievable. My nose was glued to the window. I was watching Siberia, basically, as we flew over these vast forests. It's a place that I would love to visit.
Now, why should a 14-year-old living in Siberia learn English? My first answer is that a person living in Siberia or Canada or Japan or Brazil should not only learn one foreign language, he or she should learn several, more than one foreign language, and the reason is simple. If I take my own case, I'm 67 years old, so I'm quite a bit older than you 14-year-olds in Siberia. I have seen a lot more in my life and I know many things now at age 67 that I didn't know when I was 14.
Now, in my own case, I worked. In fact, I still work. I have worked for over 40 years and I have been, I would think, fairly successful in terms of what I wanted to do in my life. I have a nice family. I have two sons. I have five grandchildren. I live in a nice house. I travel when I want. If my wife and I want to go out to a nice restaurant, we go out. If we want to go on holidays, we go on holidays. In other words, I would say that I am quite comfortable. I consider that whatever success I have had in my job, in my work, has come from knowing languages and I will go through the languages that I learned.
More opportunities have come to me because I knew a lot of languages than I would otherwise ever have had a chance to get at, so languages mean opportunities. In my case, I learned French and that's why I was accepted into the Canadian Diplomatic Service. I learned Chinese. I learned Japanese. That enabled me to set up my own company selling lumber to Japan. I then went and studied Spanish and other languages and that helped me do business in Europe. It helped me meet people. It helped me increase my range of contacts. It helped me create personal connections with people.
That's just on the business side. However, in the last 10 years or so, I have learned other languages that have nothing to do with my business, like Russian, so later on I will do a video in Russian. Every language that I learn gives me so much enjoyment because I was able to go to St. Petersburg, I was able to go to Moscow, meet people, have dinner with people, talk with people, visit the theater, go here, go there, understand everything that's going on. It gives you a tremendous feeling of satisfaction.
In Russian I like certain movies. I live certain writers. I like certain music. I have friends who are Russian. So I have things that I like in Russian and the ability to speak Russian and to understand Russian gives me tremendous enjoyment. All of these are the same for you, but more so because, whether we like it or not, English is the most useful language in the world. We may wish that Russian were more of an international language or French or Chinese or Esperanto, but the real situation is that wherever you go in the world, if you go to Japan, if you go to China, if you go to Germany, if you go to Brazil, the common language is English.
Now, why is this important if you live in Siberia? I've seen the distances in Siberia and there's probably not an English-speaking person for many thousands of kilometers in any direction, but today we live in a very connected world so that even if you are in the middle of Siberia it is very easy for you to connect with people, with movies, with music, with culture, with whatever you want via the Internet instantly in English or in Spanish or in Chinese or whatever language you are interested in, but English is the most useful because more people speak English as a second language.
I'm not talking about native speakers in the United States, Great Britain or Canada. I'm talking about people who use English as a second language. Not their own language, but a language to communicate with other people who also use it as a second language. So English is the international means of communication. Even if you live in Siberia, you are going to have contact, lots of contact with people from other countries and in order for that interaction to be meaningful you need to speak English. Now, these are things that you don't understand at age 14, or some of you do and some of you don't.
Now, I would further give you the advice that in order to learn English, you have to like learning English. I like learning Russian. I like learning other languages, Czech or French or Korean. You have to like it. That doesn't mean that you have to like everything about English culture or American culture or that you have to like all American music, you have to like all English or Austrian or Canadian or American people you meet. You don't have to like them all, but you have to find something you like, music, movies, books, some people, a friend. You have to find something to like and then what you need to do is to devote yourself to cultivating that relationship with the book, with the person, with the music and not worry too much about your grammar, about speaking correctly.
These things don't matter so much. Most people who use English as a second language make mistakes. The important thing is to be able to communicate because we live in this world today. We are sharing this world. All seven billion or so people who live in the world, we are sharing this world at the same time. We are alive at the same time and have the ability to connect with people who are sharing this moment in this enormous history of the world. To connect with other people who live in different countries, your neighbor in China or someone in the southern hemisphere in Africa or whatever, the ability to connect with these people and with their culture and their way of thinking is tremendously enriching to your life and, probably, it will enable you to be more successful because through your language you will be able to access more opportunities, more connections. Not because you get a job as a translator, but because if you are somewhere traveling and you're sitting in the plane beside someone who is from Turkey, if you have a common language you can speak. From that you will meet people who will be helpful to you in your lives or people who will in other ways enrich your lives because they will become friends.
So I have done this now, a great, long speech in English and, if I remember what I said, I will try to say some of the same things in Russian. Thank you for listening.