Why You Should Learn A Language| Saturday Scribbles

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If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”
‒Nelson Mandela

Languages have always been an important part of my life and I’ve grown up with the view that I will be fluent in several one day.  From an early age I was exposed to languages other than English, and more importantly encouraged to communicate in a language other than my native tongue.  At 14, I wrote in my diary that it was my dream to become trilingual – English, French and Spanish. Rereading this at age 26, I feel a pang of sadness for my teenage self, as I had completely forgotten this once burning desire to speak Espagnol. Spanish has turned into Dutch. Passions change, but the end goal still remains the same; I want to speak as many languages as I possibly can.

I can’t pinpoint what first sparked my interest in languages, but they’ve always seem to come easy to me. My Dad says it’s in my genes, but I don’t attribute language skills to the random luck of genetics. Benny Lewis, an Irish polyglot (FluentIn3Months.com), is tribute to the fact that anyone can learn a new language whether they are naturally gifted or not. Even though he studied languages at school, by the age of 21 he still could not speak anything but English. This is incredibly common for Irish people, and quite frankly I find it really embarrassing. In my opinion, the main reason for us as a population (and perhaps for other English speaking countries too) for not being able to speak multiple languages is the way languages are introduced to us in school. The learning is too structured, and you are made memorise long lists of verbs and vocab, which are rarely put into real life context. My little brothers are taking French at school, and they find it boring. They say they cannot remember what they have learned after a lesson. But whenever I help them at home through animating and acting out the language with them, they will remember! Learning a language should be fun. If it was taught in a more realistic and fun way, than maybe people would have more confidence to put into practice what they learn in a classroom environment.

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This week I received the nicest email from a gent called Matthew who had stumbled across my blog and as a result was inspired to kick start his Dutch learning. He wrote that he is currently learning Polish but had recently found himself trying to justify learning Dutch, as it is a minority language and we are often told that German is more ‘useful’. Matthew made a point in his email that really resonated with me. You should never have to justify your reasons to educate yourself to anyone. He believes that choosing to learn a specific language is relative depending on the individual. He writes “I would say that I’m more likely to encounter Dutch in my own life than German….. although I have no real practical need to learn Dutch and will be doing it just for the learning experience and because I like it!” 

This got me thinking about why we choose to learn a language in the first place. In school we are often given a limited choice of two or three; French, German or Spanish for instance. But what if you are not meant to learn French, German or Spanish as your second language, the language that will introduce you to the magical world of language learning. What if the language you really want to learn is Danish, or Greek, or Korean, because you’ve already been exposed to the culture. Because these are not offered, you are forced to study a language you have no real interest in and this taints your first language learning experience, thus making you believe you cannot learn a language at all. If this sounds like you, I urge you to reconsider, and look beyond the negativity of your French or German classes at school, and go for a more appealing language for you. Languages can open so many doors, and they’re a lot of fun too. Omniglot.com compiled a list of reasons and benefits of learning a new language, and here are some of my favourite ones below.

We learn a new language to…

…understand our own language and culture better
The nerd in me loves finding comparing and finding interesting differences between my languages, and cultures.

…keep our minds healthy
Move over sudoko, if you want to keep your brain working while educating yourself, you should learn a language!

…find your future husband/wife
I like this one haha. Finding love in a new country, or speaking the language that your other half speaks is always a bonus!

…better understand the rest of humankind
Speaking a different language makes you more compassionate, and helps you to understand other cultures and appreciate our differences.

…talk to friends without others understanding
All Irish people do this when in other countries! Féach ar an buachaill te in aice liom… (Look at that hot boy beside me) 😉

…learn songs in other languages
I use this as a way to improve my languages and to keep up to date with culture! Recently Maria and I have been partial to tweeting each other the Dutch versions of our favourite Disney songs!

…express things that are difficult to express in your native language
Yes!! There are words in different languages that we do not have in English that can help you communicate with increased precision. My favourite Dutch words are gezellig and lekker – you won’t understand their versatility if you’ve never been to the Netherlands or understand Dutch culture!

The limits of my language are the limits of my world.”
‒Ludwig Wittgenstein

Let me know what languages you speak, how you learnt them and what is your favourite thing about speaking a language other than your native tongue!

Charlene

xoxo


This Day Last Year – 8th November 2013 – Day 8: Sharing The Love


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15 thoughts on “Why You Should Learn A Language| Saturday Scribbles

    • You can always learn Spanish AFTER Italian. If Italian is what you feel more passionate about right now, definitely go for that! It’ll make the learning process so much easier, and a lot more relevant to your own life too!! Happy language learning 🙂

  1. This is so inspiring! I have always wanted to learn Dutch so that I can talk to my family in The Netherlands in their language for once, but I have always been terrified of the idea because I fear failure. Being Canadian I learned French early on but did not appreciate it as a child one bit and let it go to waste. In first year university I studied Spanish and did horribly! It scared me away from learning languages, but I’ve recently realized that learning a language shouldn’t be graded because people learn at different levels; for me, I suppose it is slowly. I think the best way would be for me to immerse myself in the country/culture for a good long while. I dream of living in The Netherlands and learning Dutch. Thanks for reminding me why this dream is important!

    Thanks,
    Lexie

    • Thanks Lexie. I think that you learning French at an early age is very similar to being Irish and having to learn & study Irish (Gaeilge) at school from age 4 to 18! Although, at least French is a little more useful than my national language!! 🙂
      Never give up on a language dream because you had a bad experience with a very different language. You will definitely excel at Dutch because you have the passion and interest that goes hand in hand with learning this specific language. You can always start learning Dutch using DuoLingo.com – they also have an app which I use if I am traveling to help me. You’d be surprised at how much you learn when you don’t even think you are learning. And best of all it’s free!

  2. I could not agree more with how language is not being useful. Canada is “bilingual” – we have one province who speaks French, and the rest is English. So because of this throughout school it was mandatory to learn French. I took it for 12 years.. I can say the Our Father in French, our National Anthem, and that’s it. And that is JUST from memorization, I couldn’t point out “Give us this day our daily bread” in the French prayer because I just know to say this paragraph and it’s the Our Father.. In 12 years, we leaned verbs, and exception to theses verbs. I have read that we should almost learn a language like a child does. Forget the verbs and the rules and just start with identifying different objects/pictures and eventually it will all come together like it does with a child. Instead, we sit in school, forced to “learn” this language we don’t understand because we cannot properly place the verb in the right stop.

    • I am so happy it’s not just Ireland that teaches their children a ‘national’ language like that!!! If I replaced Canada with Ireland, and French with Irish, in your comment it would still make perfect sense. I am laughing at your reference to the Our Father – this and the Hail Mary is probably all a lot of Irish people can say after 12 years of learning our language too!!
      I am a huge advocate for language education in schools from a young age, but it has to be taught differently if they expect their students to retain any of it long term!

      • It is so strange looking back to 7 year old me learning French and being taught verbs, and non of us even know what a verb in English was… They would incorporate ‘games’ like bingo into the mix, but we weren’t learning, we were looking around at each other like “what number was pulled?” “does anyone even care” “was that forty or fifty, then that poor sap who ‘won’ would stand up and the teacher would check the card and 4 of their boxes, the numbers weren’t even pulled… It is pretty funny, but such a waste of time. It was like they were so focused on us ‘memorizing’ than understanding.

  3. This is wicked! Exactly how I feel about language speaking 🙂 I went to a language school where we had to do German and French then had the option Spanish, Madarin or Russian in Year 9 in our lunch hours! Wish i’d opted for that but I carried on french and german to a level and now consequently studying them both with the OU. However, I think the best way to learn a language to be there! Your dutch is going to be amazing and this is probably one of my favourite blog posts i’ve seen in a while! Wish you lived in England! X

    • Looking back I wish I studying languages at university – I never even thought of the OU!! How are you finding it? For the moment I’m happy teaching myself using my own methods & native speaking friends!! I could totally live in England 🙂 I lived in Kent for two years when I was a child! Xx

  4. OU has it’s perks and downsides. If you’re not self motivating, you’ll really struggle but doesn’t sound like you’d have a problem! You get lots of material and I’ve made a few friends doing it – although some courses are tough as some people are reluctant to make friends/help each other out! I’d give it an 8/10 but I’m definitely going to try stick at it so I can get a degree!

    Loving your blog at the moment! You should start up a youtube…I’m going to keep nagging you until you do – VLOGMAS xx

    • Once I pay off my masters loan, I’m going to look into OU!
      Hahaha oh stop! I am so obsessed with YouTube and watching people’s vlogs, but I don’t know what kind of videos I’d make if I ever did decide to start a YouTube channel Xxx

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