Since I was born, I was confronted with two cultures: the French one and the Brazilian one. However, even if my parents used to speak in French with me all the time, my first words were in Portuguese, as my first speeches. My first school was a Brazilian one but then, when I was around five years old, I went to the Lycée Pasteur, the Sao Paulo’s French school. Because of this change, I was taught reading and writing in French and I spoke it all the time at home. Now, you might think that I feel more comfortable with French culture, under all the points of view, and that this culture represents me better than the Brazilian one. I will say that you are wrong! In fact, for many years I felt more comfortable in writing in French, reading in French… but when it comes to “speaking” I would say that I was/am able to handle both languages, even if I made errors in Portuguese, such as confusing verbs or inventing words. Fortunately, nowadays, this problem is gone; and I write easily in the two languages. In relation with speaking I find easier to speak during the day, for an example with friends, in Portuguese but, when I have to speak in a formal way like during exams, or when I go to the directory, French comes up quite quickly because is in French that I have more vocabulary and “right” words.
I presume that none of these two cultures represents me better that the other one… However, there are some facts and choices that I’ve made during my life, that show I’m a little more Brazilian… When comes the World Football cup, I always support Brazil; I have the chance to study, later on, in France, but I really prefer to stay here! I cant’ bear when people ask me if I live in the jungle with monkeys at my window!
I think this tendency comes from the fact that I was educated here, that I grown in Sao Paulo and that my friends speak Portuguese as me. Besides, I cohabitate with Brazilian culture all my life, and daily. So I may say that Brazil’s culture represents me the best even if it is a matter to be moderated.
I can’t say I’m averse to any kind of languages. There are some that, when I hear them, seem a little aggressive, like if the person was angry or something. That concerns German, Polish… but I’m not averse to them, is just that I do not like them, nor attract me.
In my opinion, foreign language learning should be fostered in all the countries. First of all, because a language is a culture. I mean, nowadays, there are many languages that are disappearing because they are not revealed enough. For an example, Indians tongues or African ones… people don’t find them attractive, because they are not recognized by the society and won’t provide them a better statues like English, Chinese or Spanish does.
Secondly, when you travel and are able to speak the country’s language, you don’t feel so lost or shinny. Last year, when I went to Germany, I couldn’t talk to no one, and when people spoke with me, I simply ignored them! And they looked so impressive, I almost feared them. In the other hand, going to Mexico was completely different because I speak Spanish and I was able all the time to make new friends, answer them, laugh… and I didn’t feel lost at all!
Finally, others languages allow us to read books without translation and to know and hear music from abroad and understand the lyrics! I simply hate when music is translated, for an example “You’re beautiful” (James Blunt) in Portuguese!! It’s horrible, destroys the music, it meaning, it beauty.
Here in Brazil, most people learn English at school and more and more Spanish too. At my school, we can choose to learn Spanish or German during the last five years, while English is obligatory and we have it since the first year of college.
I believe speaking a foreign language gives you a better social status because distinguishes you from the mass which the knowledge of other languages stops with “merci”, “bonjour”, “I love you”, “hola”… I think that, since the moment you can manage two languages, you will be recognized by the society more easily. Besides, nowadays, the more you know about the world, politics, history, languages, cultures, etc… the easier you will get a job, and a good one! In my opinion, speaking others languages is not only prestigious in a certain way, but it became a “necessity”, a big “asset” if I may say so.
When you learn a new language, you learn the traditions, the way of being and acting of this country. For an example, in France, people are known to be more reserved while here one is more "cool", welcoming…
Of course, when you trying to adapt to a new language and culture, there are some challenges. First of all, comes the grammar (I think the Portuguese one is complicated for a foreigner), and the alphabet in case of Chinese, Japanese… even in Portuguese: in Brazil, neither "K" nor "y" is used…! In my opinion, the greatest difficulty is the manner with which one must behave. I love babies, and when I see one I always smile or say like “ooooooh” if he is cute. Well, here, people smile, whereas in France they just don’t run away because it will seems too wired. Really!
But, thanks to my education and my permanent cohabitation with another culture, helped me a lot when it comes to adapt a new culture, even if is just for one month.
Compared to that, intercultural competence seems to be very important: the competence to accept and respect foreign cultures, like with immigration and on the side of the immigrants to adapt themselves to the new culture… This can be developed by encouraging cultural exchanges between countries, students, and even at your house, I mean, not letting pass the chance to learn your culture to your children. This movement of intercultural competence and exchanges happens also thanks to the displacement of companies in other countries, bringing a new manner of consuming, new products, new expressions (in a long run).
I think is totally possible to create an identity in a foreign language. If you stay 6 months in an other country and don’t come back once but just before the “delay”, you adapt almost all the culture from there… I see that with my friends: some go to France and when come back, are different. The behavior, the way of dressing, of speaking…
In my case, I can be me in all cultures if I speak the language. For instance, in English: well, I must say I have a terrible accent and not a lot of vocabulary but in off to be able to express myself and to make so that the others understand me easily. And, since the moment I can express my ideas and desires, I’m myself… because I’m able to show the others my personality! In Germany, I’m not able at all to do it! =]