The bold, the italics and the underlining were necessary.
Because it is just that good.
Image modified from here.
I mean, yeah you do make a massive tit of yourself regularly (at least daily, if you're me), there are times when you hear your horrendous accent that you want to gauge your ears out and there are times if you hear the words imperfect subjunctive one more time, you will scream.
But then there are the times when you learn to 'own' someone in another language, tell a joke that people actually understand and laugh at (although that may be more at me, than with me...) or just have a great conversation with someone that otherwise would not have been possible.
Learning a language for every country I go to is, as much as I would like to try, impossible especially as I'm in Hong Kong right now and do not speak a word of Cantonese. But, when I am investing a long amount of time in a country which does share my native language, I think it is so worth it to make an effort to speak at least the rudimentary basics in the languages. That's to say: greetings, please/thank you, numbers, how to order food/drink (priorities) and how to ask for help/directions etc.
I find it ridiculous that as native English speakers, speaking a foreign languages is a commodity. In Europe, particularly in Scandinavia, Holland and Germany, it's the norm to speak English to a high standard and a third language is not out of the question either. It's not because they have all inherent, natural abilities to learn languages, although I'm sure a lot of them will pick English up with ease; it's because their governments have made conscious efforts and invested huge amounts of time in learning and teaching English. Gove is trying to enforce learning a language up to GCSE level which is a great idea in concept. However, the huge scarcity of foreign language graduates going into teaching is not going to help. The fact that the whole language learning system in the UK is deeply flawed only furthers our language learning woes.
I will get off my soapbox.
This is meant to be a positive piece about how learning languages are so incredibly interesting, useful and believe it or not, regardless of what GCSE French lessons entailing the difference between masculine and feminine nouns told you otherwise, it is enjoyable. So, I will tell why I love learning languages because they are bloody brilliant.
Learning a language is a constant learning experience. If you consider the fact that you encounter new words in your native language on a regular basis, imagine what it's like learning a foreign language. There will be many eureka moments when learning a new word makes sense like bat being fledermaus (flying bat) in German. There will also be moments when it will just not make sense why it is what it is. But you will just learn to accept it. And that's fine because you will learn something quickly getting over the previous stumbling block.
That brings me nicely onto my second point. Learning a language makes you a better person (I may be biased). OK, maybe not quite, I could have even gone into the whole cliche about how it helps you find yourself yadda yadda yadda. But what learning a language allows to you to do is learn about a different language, culture and history. Cultural awareness makes you more open and accepting of different practices. But maybe more interestingly or more selfishly depending on how you see it, you also learn more about yourself and your take on it.
As this is a travel blog, I have my motivations for learning languages. It makes travel exponentially easier. I could barter with taxi drivers easily, I always knew the price of things and could ask how much things should cost beforehand and in regards to safety, I could overhear what people were saying about me (I am perpetually nosy too) and keep myself out of harm's way.
But most of all, what I love about learning a language is meeting the amazing people that you meet along the way. There's the people that share your pain of learning a language, there's the amazing friends that you wouldn't have made otherwise, there's the short exchanges with the shopkeeper, the old lady doing her shopping, the taxi driver who wants to tell you as much as humanly possible about the city in such a short amount of time. Sure, there are statistics like communication is only 20% spoken or whatever but that 20% makes things exponentially easier.
Learning languages in the UK is hugely undervalued. But there are more benefits than just communicational. Like I said before, learning a language is a perpetual learning curve - one I doubt I am anywhere near reaching the top. But, that's the beauty of learning a language and one I see set to continue!
Do you enjoy learning languages? What's your language learning tips?