In an increasingly globalized world, knowledge of a foreign language – in particular, one that is not widely learnt – is of growing value in every field, whether that field be medicine, business, or politics, to name but a few. But learning a new and valuable language is only one facet of the overall experience of study abroad; cultural understanding and integration are key to success in a fast-paced world.
At this point, the reader may be asking him or herself why a new language is so important when English is the dominant second language of choice around the globe. To quote a recent article in Time, “The bad news – at least for Americans thinking they don’t need to learn a second language – is that English’s very universality will make more and more of the world’s population multilingual. If all our kids speak is English, they’ll be at a disadvantage in a globalized labor force – because everyone else will speak it too,” (Martinez “Why Mandarin Won’t Be a Lingua Franca”).
Morocco is an excellent example of what it means to adapt, perhaps by sheer necessity. The term “polyglot” would be aptly given to Moroccans who, as a result of their geographic location, grow up simultaneously learning two or more languages. As a result, the country has successfully opened its doors to tourism and trade the world over. The multilingual factor of Morocco is a boon for students seeking to practice more than one language while they are abroad. Colloquial Moroccan Arabic and French are the main languages spoken in Rabat; with French being a traditional diplomatic language and Arabic a language of great import (by way of security or development), Rabat is the ideal place for a fruitful and enjoyable study abroad experience. MSA (Modern Standard Arabic) is also spoken among more elite circles and serves as the standard form of communication between Arab countries and official forms of written and spoken communication (e.g., books, newspapers, televised news broadcasts, correspondences, courts, parliament, conferences, etc.)
What can you take from the study abroad experience? To be certain, foreign language and a newfound understanding of a foreign culture are but two factors. The contacts you make will also serve you well in the future. Combining these elements – and the way you do so – is key to successfully marketing yourself when you graduate from college and set out looking for employment in the professional world.
Jacques E. Belval
Program Assistant, ESL Instructor