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Moral Virtue of Learning Foreign Languages

Reason

A skill that most utilizes the concept of reason is learning and speaking a second language. Scientific research suggests that language learning leads to enhanced cognitive control, which improves mental attention, flexibility, and reasoning. The reasoning is applied in learning a language since a person has to acquire specific skills that are developed using logical structure. For example, language processing skills such as “word and sentence comprehension, pragmatics, and discourse processing” require executive cognitive function (Deák 287).

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Learning a language, especially a non-native one, consists of grasping a variety of rules. Each language most often has unique grammar and sentence structure, syntax, and other patterns. These are acquired through memorization of fundamentals that are later applied in practice through dialogue. Reasoning becomes a critical skill in attempting to comprehend the linguistic system of a second language. Explicit-deducting learning is utilized to learn categorical rules, while implicit-inducting learning is used for acquiring prototypical patterns or associations (DeKeyser 379).

Despite seeming intuitive, language is a complex skill. When learning a native tongue as a child is a critical foundation for cognitive development. The reasoning is used to form logical connections by recognizing linguistic patterns that follow the structure of a specific language. For example, there is a linguistic pattern that establishes a systemic connection between grammatical form and definition. When learning a second language, naturally, some conscious awareness is focused on memorizing language patterns. However, psychologically, many complex singularities of language characterization are acquired in the absence of awareness. Learning mechanisms can be effective through implicit passive exposure as much as explicit instruction (Batterink and Paller).

At first, when learning a second language, I had to deliberately think when using it. As I gained more comprehension of the language, it became more natural and intuitive. Learning a second language is a continuous task that requires practice and development. Sometimes, it helps to listen to advice from more proficient or native carriers of the language since they can offer insights about the intricacies of a language that are not explained in textbooks. Therefore, I strive towards building a more profound understanding of syntax so that, using reasoning, I can express myself clearly by constructing sentences based on grammatical patterns and rules.

Development of the Soul

Charlemagne is attributed a quote that “to speak another language is to possess another soul” (Schwayder). Language has a tremendous influence on a person’s inner development. It goes beyond the simple skill of being able to express oneself. Psychologists found that bilingual individuals have differing opinions of ethnic groups since language influences biases and preconceptions. In turn, this begins to influence preferences and even behavior. When using another language, studies have shown people sometimes completely shift their implicit attitudes and associations (Schwayder). Language allows one to gain an introspective on another culture. The intricacies, preferences, and social norms of another culture are inherently adopted through the use of a language. This phenomenon occurs since linguistics is an inherent part of the cultural development that has been ongoing for millennia. Therefore, by learning other languages, a person significantly expands their perspective through knowledge, emotional intelligence, and spiritual development.

In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle cited wisdom as one of the factors necessary for the development of the soul. He described wisdom as consisting of practical wisdom, which most relates to calculated reason and capacity to act for the good of man. Meanwhile, philosophical wisdom is the concept of virtue (Aristotle 108). Learning a second language is inherently good for the soul because it allows one to acquire both kinds of wisdom. By having insight into the complex linguistical structure and cultural perspectives, one has the practical wisdom to act appropriately when communicating with people from that background. Furthermore, mastering a foreign language is considered virtuous from a philosophical standpoint because, similar to morality, language cannot be adopted through a simple set of rules. It requires an intuitive feeling of linguistic nuances; thus, allowing to gain an understanding of the cultural point of view and becoming a moral agent of virtue (Fröding 53).

Works Cited

Aristotle. Nichomachean Ethics. Translated by David Ross, Oxford World Classics, 2009.

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Batterink, Laura, and Ken Paller. “Picking Up Patterns in Language.” American Psychological Association. 2016, Web.

Deák, Gedeon O. “Interrelationship of Language and Cognitive Development (Overview).” Encyclopedia of Language Development. Edited by Patricia J. Brooks and Vera Kempe. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2014. 285-291.

DeKeyser, Robert M. “Learning Second Language Grammar Rules: An Experiment With a Miniature Linguistic System.” Studies in Second Language Acquisition, vol. 17, no. 3, 1995, pp. 379-410, Web.

Fröding, Barbro. Virtue Ethics and Human Enhancement. Springer Science & Business Media, 2012.

Scwayder, Maya. “Change Languages, Shift Responses.” The Harvard Gazette. 2010, Web.

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