A key to understanding
Tolerance is defined as possessing “a fair, objective and permissive attitude towards the opinions, beliefs and practices that differ from one’s own”.
Due to globalisation, people from different cultural backgrounds are able to interact. By being able to do so, people have built a certain tolerance towards different cultures, religions and views. However, geography is a major factor that have set people apart, but sharing a common language remains a binding factor. People belonging to diverse cultures can now come together and form a mix of subcultures. The truth is that people feel united when they find others to be a part of the same lingual group as them. Living in a multicultural society, it is essential to be able to understand, respect and appreciate other cultural beliefs. In addition, probing into other cultures comes with the understanding of their language. Research shows that while learning a new language, one becomes aware of cultural differences and the reasons for their existence. Knowing the history of a culture instils a sense of respect and understanding for that specific culture. Living in a country like the UAE with 200 different nationalities, we witness how each and every culture, belief and nationality is integrated under one common roof.
In the 21st century, it is of great importance to bring people of different ideologies, behaviours, attributes and policies together in order to thrive and work together in a cross cultural setting. By doing so, the country will produce a better outcome and form a successful,cohesive, pragmatic and tolerant society. Considering that, language is a factor that helps in bringing people closer to each other.
Learning a foreign language is essential, and that too, in a multicultural society. When people coexist, they learn to respect each other and instil a spirit of tolerance and understanding of differences.
From Mr Azam Zaidi
Production supervisor based in Abu Dhabi
Language does not indicate tolerance
I am undecided whether language spreads tolerance among people because it really depends on the angle that we look at. If someone is keen to learn languages, he or she already has the mind set that they want to learn that specific language, and all that comes with it, including its cultural aspect. However, if we look at it from another angle, there are a lot of expatriates in the UAE who might not speak English and when people try to speak to them, they might get upset because they can’t understand. By reacting like that and not wanting to learn a foreign language, it reflects on their personality and that they themselves might be intolerant, hence, not wanting to learn another language. We need to look at the issue from a different light, and the desire to learn a new language is a sign of tolerance in itself. When you learn a new language, you do not just learn the vocabulary or grammar because with a language comes a whole new world. For example, in the UK or Italy, there are various words that describe different things, and trying to translate them might lose its definition. In addition, each and every word in a language is connected to a specific culture and traditions.
Tolerance is not something that happens overnight, rather something that grows. If learning a new language was enough to spread tolerance among people, we would be living in a better world today. There are a lot of multilingual people but that doesn’t make them more tolerant than those who are not. It is important to understand that tolerance is a concept that is very much underdeveloped and it goes beyond simply just learning a new language. Tolerance involves knowledge, acceptance and respect, which cannot simply be met by a new language.
However, let’s look at the UAE as an example. This country is known for its tolerance, just look at its street signs. Each and every street name or sign is written in both English and Arabic, thus giving people a chance to understand. By doing so, the country is promoting multilingualism and most importantly, it reflects on the local community’s acceptance of foreigners. At the end of the day, we need to understand that learning is a sign and it is the start of developing tolerance as well as promoting interaction between people of different countries. In conclusion, language can help develop tolerance, but on its own, it is not enough to spread tolerance.
From Mr Andrea Tosatto
Psychologist based in Dubai
It can help in briding the gap
I agree that language will help spread tolerance among people. Learning a new language means so much more than just words that form a sentence that you can use to communicate with others. Learning a language means learning about a culture that is different than your own, learning about a group of people and their traditions. By learning a new language, and understanding the differences between your own language and the new language, you gain a wider understanding for a certain group of people, thereby bridging the gap of differences between you.
However, with that said, it is important to also understand the fact that tolerance is more of a trait. Some people are multilingual and seem to have a positive outlook on the world, their mind set might still be very different, thus not accepting of differences, thereby making them very intolerant. For example, growing up in Sweden, it was mandatory to learn English and then there was the choice of learning either German, French or Spanish. With that in mind, most children in school would at least speak three different languages. However, does that mean that Swedish children are more tolerant than children in any other part of the world, who might not have had the luxury of studying three languages? Most probably not. Learning a language is a choice, but tolerance is a mind set. You might love to learn new languages and travel the world, but that doesn’t mean that you are accepting of the differences.
In terms of spreading tolerance among people, language is a great tool to be used to raise awareness and understanding, but more needs to be done in order to make people of different backgrounds coexist.
From Mr Mustafa A.Z.
Medical student based in Gdansk, Poland
Tolerance doesn’t grow overnight — it should be cultivated from childhood
I think it is important to define the word ‘tolerance’ so that we can better understand what makes people, young and old, more tolerant towards differences.
Tolerance is the ability to accept and understand opinions, religions, behaviours that one dislikes or disagrees with. This requires the individuals to have an open minded approach, curiosity to know and desire to understand things and people around. In my opinion, intolerance is an attitude that generates over fear, ignorance, lack of stimulation and the opportunity to learn or simply lack of motivation.
Learning other languages is a step to develop tolerance. Understanding what others say is extremely important because language barriers create misunderstandings and incomprehension. Speaking the same language is a form of progress that would allow people to understand each other better and to be open to learn new concepts, tradition, ideas and beliefs. Communication and tolerance are not unilateral processes, but need two or more individuals to actively exchange ideas and listen to opinions. This is very difficult if we do not have a good knowledge of the same language.
Let’s consider for example children with communication or language delay. This affects their ability to socialise, to interact and their possibility to be accepted and integrated in the social peer group. In turn, this could decrease their motivation to be accepted and understood. Communication among people is simplified if we use the same code (language) to talk to each other and, of course, if we are equally capable to use that same language.
However, I also think that tolerance is taught to people since they are children. It is a skill that is cultivated from childhood and that goes beyond language. Parents have the important role of teaching their children to be curious in life and of life.
Curiosity is extremely important and motivates people to see, listen, search, understand, agree or disagree, accept the differences — that is tolerance in my opinion.
Learning a new language is extremely important as one of the steps in the promotion of tolerance but it is not enough. Tolerance is taught in the family first because children repeat words, behaviours and attitudes observed in their parents. Tolerance is cultivated at school and through activities that promote the exchange of beliefs and knowledge of new ideas, and integration of the differences.
Learning more languages could be promoted by the society as giving opportunities of learning to people in the community. These opportunities should be easy to access (cost, timing, etc) and not exclusive for few.
In addition, intolerance and discrimination should be punished by law. So, at the same time each Government could do its best to facilitate tolerance on different levels: speaking the same language or learning new languages can help to spread tolerance among people with no doubt. Is this enough to ensure a tolerant and open minded society? Unfortunately not. This is why many people are intolerant towards others even if they speak the same language and they live in the same country, but simply because they believe in different things.
From Ms Valeria Risoli
Clinical psychologist based in Dubai
— Compiled by Donia Yassinson/Community Web Editor