I recently watched a nice video from the Goethe Institute, who promote German language and culture. It’s a summary of why learning German is actually a great idea for Brits, if perhaps narrated a bit too pompously for me. But in this video, the narrator states that “schools play a vital role in educating the global citizens of the future”. Global Citizens. Is your Buzzword alarm going off too?
Obviously “citizen” in itself is quite a powerful word. Pupils learn citizenship at school, and from looking at the exam papers this is about understanding the way society is organised. There are questions about all sorts from lobbying to charity and The Cuts™. Citizenship is more than just understanding how society works though - it’s about getting the sense that the institutions work for you and it’s worth being a part of it.
So what makes the citizen global?
I consulted the master of all plain language definitions on this one: Urbandictionary, and it actually came out with a pretty nice summary:
“ A person that intentionally chooses to consider all countries as potential places to live, work, and play.”
This sounds a lot more fun than what those exam papers showed. More importantly, the website gave us what it thinks the opposite of a global citizen would be: a xenophobe, someone who resists the influence of other cultures and languages out of fear. We have the internet, the United Nations and a lot of rising superpowers who influence our own country’s economy and culture. Add to that the fact that these days almost every company works with clients and suppliers from all over the world, and almost every employee has at least one foreign colleague as a consequence. Now I understand: Global citizenship is a fancy way of saying that we should live the opportunities that are out there in the world. Don’t be scared of how different it would be to live somewhere else, but instead take advantage of your passport and travel the world.
Where does Language come in?
In the video about German language, we hear from companies
like Bentley. They’re growing into all markets of the world, and owned by a German company. I can really see how a bit of German, Chinese or Spanish is going to
come in handy – they might need you to work abroad for a period of time or show
your local office to an international team of visitors. I’ve
had jobs which involved travelling all over the
world, and I love the absolute privilege of having an international career. Going
to China or Russia didn’t make me fluent in those languages straight away, but
it’s just such a great sense of achievement and acceptance when you can
communicate across a language barrier. Understanding how people live and what values
rule in their society is even more important – you will always need to understand
your client or partner’s requirements before you can be successful in business. Or did you know, just like that, that in Moscow 8 March is an official holiday?
We don’t tend to put pupils who are learning a foreign language in school into Camp Acquisition – after all, they are learning it because it’s part of the curriculum. But conversely, global citizenship is all about that. It’s about discovering your curiosity about what’s out there in the world and what makes people tick over in the foreign lands. Language is where you can start entering another world, and the potential you are unlocking with that will absolutely change your life if you let it.
I’m not going to start using this term as a fancy buzzword any time soon, but it doesn’t change this: Global Citizenship is really important, and it means an awful lot to me.