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Multilingualism – a skill to change the world

“Have a voice!”

You might have heard this phrase, or words to that effect, many times, but have you ever asked yourself what exactly is needed to make your voice heard?

In the modern world, it is imperative that young people possess a variety of skills in order to make a change, but it is the knowledge of foreign languages that will allow this generation to be called global change-makers. Today, English is the most commonly spoken language in the world. So, if everyone speaks this international language, is it still important to learn others?

Multilingualism is directly connected to communication between people of different heritage. There is no doubt that there is a strong link between language, communication, culture, and power. To quote Nelson Mandela, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” This famous remark is food for thought, serving as inspiration for linguists and polyglots around the world. I have subsequently thought about how we, as young people, can make our voices not just heard, but appropriately understood and appreciated. I therefore surmise that speaking many languages can facilitate the creation of a more peaceful environment, without conflict. Multilingualism affords society the opportunity to go beyond mere tolerance of our respective differences, progressing to genuine mutual respect.

It is important to note that languages are intricately linked to diversity, which is one of the European Union’s values, along with freedom of speech and human rights. Diversity is a unique phenomenon that lays the foundation for creativity and strategic thinking. Imagine a theoretical gathering of people from 20, 30, or even 40 different countries  – everyone with a unique background, individual experiences, new visions and ideas. We understand that bilingual/multilingual skills foster a different attitude and a holistic approach. Those with the ability to speak multiple languages are therefore able to reflect on society’s challenges with an open mind. This idea can be supported by the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis: the language we speak has a direct impact on how we perceive the world (Lucy, 2001). Therefore, it can be argued that when we learn a new language, we are able to explore the local culture, but we also begin to understand the context in which the native speakers live. We perceive a new culture through its own lens. 

However, it should be considered that intercultural communication is a sensitive topic. A diverse environment can make communication more complex, leading to misunderstanding. This might be caused by a language barrier – a difficulty in communication arising when no common language is shared. The language barrier is a widespread issue among ethnic minorities and migrants. In Georgia, for example, approximately 13 per cent of the overall population hail from ethnic minorities. This is a significant proportion of the population that may not be able to make their voices heard. It should be underlined that the integration of those ethnic minorities starts with teachers and language tutors. One of the goals of teachers in this case is to make such students feel attached to the language and explain the importance of speaking foreign languages. It will ease the process of integration for the representatives of other ethnicities. 

In most cases, conflict arises when one party does not understand the viewpoint expressed by the other, or is unaware of their sensitivity and cultural values. In this case, besides just teaching the language, teachers should instill these sensibilities, cultural values and beliefs associated with the native community of that language. This method of values-based teaching will lead to the formation of a community of peacebuilders and change-makers.

We must take into account that languages may either instill hatred or develop empathy – it is important to learn how to use language correctly to avoid the former. The effect of our message on the world around us often depends on our delivery. So, it is crucial not only to learn a foreign language, but also to gain effective communication skills to defuse tension and resolve conflict.

Therefore, in January 2023, I initiated a project, visiting regions of Georgia populated by ethnic minorities to incentivise and support them in overcoming language barriers. Meeting so many people from different backgrounds made me realise the importance and power of foreign languages: they unite us, help us make a difference, let us speak up. This is a year of skills and it is a high time to start learning a new language to empower not only yourself, but your community as well! 


Bailey, A. L. & Osipova, A. V. (2015), The Importance and Impact of Multilingualism, Cambridge University Press

Friedrich, P. (2009), Peace   Studies  and   Peace Linguistics  Now: What  has  language   got to   do  with  it. Peace Forum

Mielnikiewicz, J. (2021), Georgia’s Minorities: Breaking Down Barriers to Integration. Carnegie Europe

Sahin, Y. (2011), The Importance  of   Foreign  Language  Learning  Contributing  to  Peace, US-China Education Review

Sogutlu, E. (2014), How can Language Learning contribute to Peace, University College Beder