Language Learning as a Fourth Tool for Empathy Building

     This article caught my attention, confirming my hopes on building empathy via learning at least three languages from different language families, and tying in with my post on three other complementary ways to build empathy:

    “In reply to: Dr. Arguelles says that we should all learn six languages that fall into four categories:

Langs 1 and 2.)  Classical languages of one’s own culture.

Langs 3 and 4.) Major living languages of one’s broader culture.

Lang 5.) The international language.

Lang 6.) Exotic language (for the person).

This seems to be in line with this Atlantic article “”

stating that
“…Multilingual exposure may promote effective communication by enhancing perspective-taking.”

So, yes, language learning does indeed build empathy.

Oh, and for me:   I am fluent, accidentally, in Spanish and French, and conversant (my writing is horrible) in Turkish, because I either worked or lived in Mexico, France, and Turkey.  I read Biblical Hebrew, and am learning modern Greek out of curiosity, so let’s see:

  1. Langs 1 and 2.)  Classical languages of one’s own culture:   That would be Hebrew and
  2. Greek, although I am learning modern Greek, not ancient
  3. Langs 3 and 4.) Major living languages of one’s broader culture:  Those would be English, and
  4. Spanish
  5. Lang 5.) The international language: for me, that’s French checked off, and
  6. Turkish is the only language left, although I don’t really consider it exotic.  Personally, I’d like to learn Medieval Farsi/Persian, so that I can read Rumi.  I did begin learning Tsalagi/Cherokee, back when I was researching my NC roots, but didn’t have time to pursues those studies, as I got work in Mexico and had to learn Spanish in a hurry.

   Ok, so I don’t get full points, but I came close, just on my curiosity and attempts to get residence in some other country, over the years.  I credit those languages, to which I began having exposure (French and Spanish) at a very early age due to living in DC at a time when many Puerto Rican residents were moving through the area, and having a parent obsessed with sounding hoity-toity, thus babbling in bad French rather often at me, until I learned, around the age of 5, to say “Mamà, je suis malade de français !”  -which stopped that, but the memory stayed with me, apparently, as I learned French very quickly when I moved to Bretagne.  It also helps that the Breton version of French is much easier to learn than other versions, as they speak more slowly and the rhythm is quite predictable.  Maybe it’s due to the weather.

  This is why language learning is part of Project Do Better, linked in below.


      Thoughtful Reader,  please imagine and comment here:   How can empathy help build equity of responsibility?  What could equity of responsibility and citizenry look like, if every person had a home?

  I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this matter, Thoughtful Readers.

We can really  Do Better.



Action Prompts:

    Share your thoughts on how to build buy-in create a more equal, or at least less inequitable, society, please.   Writing, by the way, is my personal contribution to Project Do Better

What would yours be, if you had time?


Click here to read, if you like:

B5, Hakan:Muhafiz/The Protector, Lupin, or La Casa De Papel/Money Heist Reviews,

Holistic High School Lessons,

Shira Destinie A. Jones, MPhil, MAT, BsCs

Creative Commons License
Shira Destinie Jones’ work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.



56 thoughts on “Language Learning as a Fourth Tool for Empathy Building

  1. Personally, I’d replace “exotic language” with “language from a different language family than that of one’s native language family” -note that English, French, Spanish, and Greek are all Indo-European, while Hebrew is Semitic, and Turkish is Middle-Asian/Turkic (neither Semitic nor Far Eastern, but I forget the exact lang. family, if someone would like to check this, please?).

    Shira/Song-Poem/aka “Poema” to a family in Puerto Morelos, QR, Mx! 🙂

    Liked by 6 people

  2. I think that learning other than one’s own languages is a great possibility to connect and learn about other cultures. When we were children, my father insisted that we learned at least phrases of the language of each country we would travel to. I found that so useful that learning languages became kind of a hobby of mine. Unfortunately, many of the languages I learned, I never used in daily life, so I forgot them.
    I am a German mother tongue person and speak English and Danish on the same level. Then follow French and Spanish, and the one I learned, but practiced least is Russian. And I learned Latin at school.

    My forgotten languages are Sanskrit (my, my, what was I thinking of?), Bahasa Indonesia, Filipino, Tahitian and Fijian.

    I would very much like to learn Swahili, Hawaiian, Portuguese and Italian. Maybe not in this lifetime. (Portuguese has a good chance though.) My husband and I are playing music together now, which fills a lot of our time.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. “Sanskrit (my, my, what was I thinking of?)”
      Interesting! Reading The Bhagavad Gita, perhaps? Would be fascinating, after Rumi, if I had the time.

      I’ve never even heard of Bahasa! Interesting: would you like to fill me in on it, please?

      Why these languages, in particular?

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I read the Gita in German actually, I never made it that far in Sanskrit. I should have studied Hindi instead …
        The reason was that I studied three years so called Austronesistik, Languages and cultures of Indonesia and the South Pacific. That was after I had worked for 7 years, and I found that I had deserved a break, doing something I really wanted to do.
        For me it was interesting to see, which language borrowed what and how much from others.
        That is also very interesting in European languages.

        Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi, Sharon, thank you for this excellent comment: I’ve cited articles in earlier posts about how learning languages, or even just exposure to other languages, increases empathy.

      Let me find one of the posts and link here…

      Liked by 3 people

    2. That article is the only recent one I can find, but I know I’ve seen others around, in the educational journals. Related also to how reading novels helps develop and increase empathy, but a via different set of brain circuits, I imagine.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Oh! Sorry, I just realized that this is the same post that you were replying too, oops! I look forward to your thoughts on the cited article when you’ve had a chance to read more!

        Liked by 4 people

      1. Thank you, and I agree wholeheartedly with you!

        I see that many people are intimidated by the idea of language learning, and so I try to find ways to help make the idea a bit less so, for instance, by reviewing popular shows in various languages. Unfortunately, my show reviews don’t seem to be attracting much attention, so I am considering ending some of them early to get more work done on my editing for Project Do Better.

        I hope you are having a lovely weekend!
        Warmest Regards,

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Question. 1 – I think empathy makes one less resistant to narcissistic biased impulses and thus you can apply your critical thinking skills more easily see a common synthesis of of various human perspectives. .

    Question 2 – To me, represents a state of mind, not necessarily a physical place . Organized religion in an equitable society would be replaced by more of an inner pursuit of spiritual satisfaction common to all. Ie. Sort of like what universal dharma means to India’s culture.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. İsim sano = sağlık ŝi havas bonan sanon o iyi sağlığa sahiptir
    Sıfat sana = sağlıklı ŝi estas sana o sağlıklıdır
    Fiil sani = sağlıklı olmak ŝi sanas o sağlıklıdır
    Zarf sane = sağlıklı şekilde ŝi sane vivas o sağlıklı şekilde yaşıyor

    Not to be confused with
    (en castellano)…

    Liked by 2 people

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