As the world becomes more globalized the importance of learning more than one language increases, according to those at a session at the Red Deer Public Library on Saturday.
Josephine Pallard, president of International and Heritage Languages Association, said 30 or 40 years ago people feared students might get confused learning more than one language and parents who spoke another language were so concerned about their children learning English that they didn’t push for them to learn their mother tongue.
Pallard said the myth that learning many languages will confuse students has been debunked, pointing to students in Europe who learn many languages at once.
She said even as new immigrants are integrated into Canadian society it’s important for them to keep their traditions alive, which means having their children learn their mother tongue.
Pallard was one of the presenters at the event, which drew a handful of people and also included a discussion on second language education in the province that will be forwarded on to Alberta Education as part of the Inspiring Education dialogue.
The International and Heritage Languages Association, which she has been a part of for more than three decades, is a non-profit organization that is an umbrella group for 40 language schools in Edmonton and Red Deer.
Pallard said often the students who have gone to the language schools eventually became ambassadors from Canada to their home countries or go back as businessmen and teachers because they are able to speak the native language.
Tatiana Poliakevitch, who is the community development librarian at the Red Deer Public Library, has worked in consultation with local organizations and residents to help create a Russian Club, a Spanish conversation club and multilingual story times at the library.
The library has expanded the collection of books and DVDs in different languages and begun to have foreign film screening nights in the three years since she started in her position. She said it is the library’s mission to give parents the opportunity to teach their own children in their own languages.
Lissette Velásquez, program co-ordinator of Conversa Spanish Centre in Red Deer, helps run the Spanish Por Favor conversation club at the Red Deer Public Library.
She said second language learning is important because it keeps a culture intact, it also helps people’s brains to expand and it helps them understand their first language better.