Languages and Hyperspheres in our Brains: Towards a New Paradigm for Intercultural Learning?

In order to go beyond obvious but rather narrow-minded utilitarian approaches to language learning, let us revisit the language(s)/culture(s) continuum. To begin with, the causal relationships between different forms of motivation and perceptions/representations of the world, especially as far as alterity is concerned, should be reassessed – the “motivation vortex” can shed light on several issues involved in intercultural understanding. Such a starting point leads to a provocative hypothesis regarding the relationships between acquisition of languages, acquaintance with cultures, and development of ethics in human beings.

Starting from the basic idea according to which “a fish does not know what water is”, I postulate, using the geometrical metaphor of the hypersphere, that mastery of several languages is not only essential to developing cultural consciousness but also a key to access to global awareness. This might open research avenues for several disciplines and options to reconsider daily tricky issues in our schools. Multilingualism as an antidote to fear (of the unknown: “xenophobia”) and a pathway to cosmopolitanism: If sound neuroscientific work, combined with case studies in multicultural education, proves the hypothesis right, then we may hope to take one small step toward more respect between human beings: yet another “giant leap for mankind” to come?

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