English-speaking countries should learn Spanish as a second language

The history of the relationship between Latin America and the English-speaking Caribbean comes from ancient times when indigenous groups of the Caribbean islands and the mainland moved freely through vessels built with the rudimentary means that nature provided them.

The main reason for this movement and this broad exchange was precisely the accessibility among the islands and the mainland through the arch that makes up the islands of the Caribbean Sea, which unites each one of them by narrow margins of sea. From Cuba to The Bahamas, Jamaica, Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic), Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico and the latter to the islands of the Eastern Caribbean up to Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. This whole maritime carriage is singularly short or small.

This close and open relationship among Caribbean people, between islanders and people living on the continental platform, has shown that proximity has always opened the way to different kind of new emigrations, these new emigrations are mainly based on new job opportunities created by rapid economic growth in certain neighbouring countries. These countries' economic booms attract more manpower: scientific, technological, skill workers, peasants, and all kinds of labour capable of serving to the new developments in those countries or countries immerse in economic boom.

Sometimes a monumental work, the type whose characteristics demand a huge amount of different kind of workforce, is the ground for the creation of a new emigration. A classic example is the construction of the Panama Canal to unite in a maritime commercial way the Pacific Ocean with the Atlantic Ocean and when a lot of Anglo-Caribbean people went to Cuba to work in a sugar industry at the beginning of the 19th century.

Things happen nowadays in such a way, theoretically geographically. Internet, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Skype, cable television, satellite communications, smartphones, etc, are the key instruments that have been used as a concrete expression of this phenomenal proximity of humanity.

All this magic reality that touches each of our five senses forces us to develop according to changing circumstances nonstop. One of the ways we can better adapt, survive, and succeed in the new international environment is that we must overcome the monolingualism, ie, to become bilingual or trilingual.

Modern human society forces us imperatively to learn a second international language and that is so important that it will help us not only to fully develop our communication with millions of others but to expand our cognitive power and our ability of analysis generally.

Learning Spanish language in this area is an imperative of the new time, where the working market is no longer the ones that we knew, and will never be, strictly a domestic market. Faced with this challenge, we need to act with supreme intelligence and acquire a second language that will not only be practically useful to our interests, but a language that allows us to cover other languages with relative ease.

According to many prestigious experts who have studied the benefits produced by knowing another foreign language well, they have concluded that bilinguals enhance creativity while they develop higher skills for conceptualising and apprehending knowledge as well as to analyse and solve complex and difficult problems of any kind.

It has also been shown that people who dominate other foreign languages usually have higher academic results than those persons who just are monolingual.

Other studies show that the best job opportunities and better paying jobs in the competitive international market favours those who dominate two languages (the native one and one of international importance).

Lately, newer data and sharper analytical methods provide a much better measure of bilingualism and people's ability to speak and read in languages other than English. The ability to distinguish between oral proficiency in one or more languages and literacy skills themselves in two or more languages has enabled researchers to identify the economic advantage of bilingualism among young adults, both in terms of a higher work status as in higher wages. New data sets measure bilingualism among younger generations entering the labour market defined not by geographic boundaries, but by means of instant access to information.

Many employers currently seek mainly people who are multilingual. In the field of international business and trading, increasingly active and global, the need for bilingual people becomes a strategic requirement and, in my opinion, the Caribbean countries are behind.

We must take this issue very seriously, all institutions from primary, secondary, university and postgraduate should include foreign language courses, to make them able to speak and master a foreign language and indeed go further beyond monolinguals, for them to obtain important experiences through the new language and so that they can easily get involved with a different culture.

With globalisation in full and complete development, there are unlimited possibilities for finding great jobs for all those who do not just speak the English language but speak fluently a second foreign language. Let's start to learn a second language. That should be our priority, and I recommend starting learning the Spanish language.

Ossain C Martinez has a master's degree in teaching Spanish as a foreign language. He is an instructor at the Department of Modern Languages and Literature, The University of the West Indies, Mona.

Ossain C Martinez

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