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Should I Learn A New Language?
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Many of us will have learnt a second or even a third language at school, and if my personal experience is anything to go by it was not easy. I actually used to dread the language classes coming round at school as I had no aptitude for learning languages - getting to know the intricacies of my mother tongue, english, was enough thanks. So I saw no real reason why I should learn a new language.

That was a while ago now though and in the past couple of decades the world has changed a great deal. We have all seen the explosion of web traffic, the increase in travel; some of us will have gone overseas to live, and work itself can now be a global exercise, not just dealing with companies in our own country. Does this mean that there are now more real reasons to learn a new language?

I think there are now many more reasons to learn that second language and not all of them are simply to deal with a situation such as buying a bottle of water somewhere overseas. Let's look at a couple of solid reasons before we look at the emotional intelligence ones.

1. Overseas travel, despite the recent increases in cost of doing so, is a prime reason for learning the language of the country you are to visit. Even if you only get a few phrases cemented into your memory they can be very useful. Suppose you are out in a rural area of a country and get a puncture (flat). Try telling the local community in english that you need help, and what if they don't understand?

2. If you work in a global company as I did, then they may well send you overseas, and this will be a great opportunity to get that new language under your belt. Imagine how valuable you will be to your company if you are successful at your job and also speak the local language - wow.

But wait a minute - let's more closely define this phrase "learn a language", as it will mean many things to many people. If you are going on holiday it will mean getting the phrases for "taxi please" or a menu in a restaurant. It doesn't mean learning enough so that you are only speaking this language whilst you are in the country you are vacationing in. On the other hand if you are studying or working or even living in another country it can mean a whole lot more, and think of the advantage for your kids! In any event it takes your time and effort (lot's in my case) - so is it worth it?

I think it is and in trying to answer that question let's consider the other side of language learning, the emotional intelligence aspects, wow what does this mean? Well for me it means the phenomenally great feeling I get when I actually manage to make someone whose natural language is not the same as mine understand exactly what I want when I use their language. I could be in a shop and need something I cannot see and have to ask for it, even if I have to look a word or two up in my pocket dictionary. For you there could be a host of situations where you will get this great feeling. Suppose your partner has a natural language different to yours - how will you communictae with his or her family - it would be easy to say through your partner, but just think how good you will feel if you can do it yourself?

Think also that if you communicate to someone in their language how good they will feel about you. They will not have the frustration of trying to understand the words you are using, even if you only have a few of them. But more about this in future articles. If you are wondering about learning a language or have to and really don't know why, these thoughts may help you. For more thoughts keep watching this space, and I would love to hear of your experiences in this learning process both good and bad.

Street Talk

Hi Keith, having moved to France and not having any formal learning of French at school I'm finding it difficult at times here. I guess it must be sinking in by osmosis but French is so different from English in its construction, grammer, gender anomalis and whether one is speaking to a friend or stranger. Just 4 things that make it 4 times more complicated than English!

  about 1 decade ago
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