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EUROPEAN VOICES by ALEXANDER STUBB I Languages are good for you have never met anyone who Finnish and my father in Swedish. The use was disappointed to speak a of language depended on the person you foreign language. It's equally addressed. Dinner table conversations may difficult to find someone who have sounded funny to some, but natural thinks learning languages as to us. Even when my brother and I were in an adult is easy, whereas kids a Swedish-speaking school, we spoke simply pick up languages like Finnish to each other in the schoolyard. we pick up their dirty clothes Languages create opportunities. I am ­ all the time, everywhere. grateful to my parents for giving me two I grew up bilingual, speaklanguages early on. It's a gift that I will ing Finnish with my mother carry with me for the rest of my life. My and brother, and Swedish knowedge of Finnish and Swedish made it with my father. I started off in a Finnisheasier for me to pick up English, German language school and switched over to and French. Without language skills, I Swedish-language education in fourth would have never been able to study and grade. I did most of work abroad. my university studies in English. My father is an ice KIdS PICK UP lANgUAgES hockey talent scout. There have been endless debates He always encouraged lIKE PARENtS PICK UP about the virtues and his sons to study thEIR dIRty ClOthES. vices of multiand languages. When we bilingualism. were young, we didn't There used to be a really understand why. fear that children exposed to more than After all, we were going to play profesone language at an early age would find it sional ice hockey in the NHL! confusing and it might cause slow speech Later we figured out why Dad was so development or other problems. adamant about the languages. He saw that Today, most studies prove that bilinwe would never become professional ice gualism is good for you. It's not only about hockey players. learning languages and communication In the age of globalisation, language skills. Many bilingual children actually skills are becoming even more important. develop additional skills, such as multiEnglish might be the lingua franca of the tasking and logical problem solving. The Western world, but not the whole world. brain likes exercising. If I were granted three languages by a A Canadian study published last spring multilingual fairy godmother, they suggests that being bilingual can actually would be Russian, Chinese and Spanish. delay the onset of dementia by keeping the Unfortunately, I'll just have to dream brain in shape. about them, because I'm busy picking up my kids' clothes. I don't know about the scientific evidence, but I have my own experience and ALEXANDER STUBB is Finland's explanation. Language is a social, not a minister for European affairs and rational skill. We associate languages with foreign trade. you can follow him on people and places. Twitter and Facebook through My parents were always consistent. They never mixed languages when talking to us, my mother always spoke to us in JANUARy 2012 BlUE WINgS 49 ENg

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