July 10

why do you bother learning a language?

Many people ask my why I even bother learning languages. In this day an age, everyone speaks English so why bother?

Now there is so much wrong with this statement I don’t even know where to start. First though, I do think English is something of a Lingua Franca these days. In many careers all over the world, English is a requirement, not just an asset. Having said that, it does not mean that the whole world speaks English. Many may be able to communicate in English, but you won’t get much more than a glimpse at the different culture if you don’t make the effort of learning even just a little bit of their language. It is also a very arrogant world view. If your first language is English, good on you, but do not assume everyone else has learned English just to speak with you.

Languages are some of the most important skills these days and yes it still holds true in this age of technology and automated translators. Much more though, what learning a language does, is teaching you about different ways of life, about a different culture and about people from a different part of the planet. And this is and will be important for many years to come, especially now that we are all more and more connected through social media and the internet in general. Travelling has never been so easy or affordable, we can get to just about every remote corner of the planet in a reasonable amount of time.

To me, learning about other cultures is probably the number 1 reason for studying languages and for wanting to be a polyglot. I want to learn about other people and about their countries. Case in point I started studying Spanish with the sole intention of being functional when I return to South America. Through studying the language you naturally get in touch with native speakers, their opinions and viewpoints and you also get exposed to a large amount of native material like TV shows, the news, podcasts, websites, etc. I remember a very interesting conversation with an Argentinian about the Falkland War. Now I freely admit I knew very little about it, other than that the Argentine forces invaded and occupied the islands and the UK came to defend their territory. It was very interesting to hear the details from an Argentinian and how that war has shaped his country into what it is today. Sure you can read about it in English on wikipedia, but it is quite a different thing to hear a first hand account of someone who was alive through that time period and see it through their eyes.

It is also the reason for my current projects. There are huge changes happening in a big corner of the world that I know little about and understanding Arabic and their culture even just a bit more will make a huge difference in understanding what is going on. Portuguese is a bit more of a side project, but I have wanted to visit and experience the Brazilian way of life every since I was a little girl and used to watch Ayrton Senna race around the track and, more often than not, doing a victory lap with the Brazilian flag.

I love to travel and I love to learn. I have been very fortunate and have done a fair amount of travel that started when I was little with my family. I firmly believe that this has made me into the person I am today. I learned very early on that having shoes for example, is not a given for many kids. The more we know, the better human beings we can be.

To stop learning is regressing, the only way to keep up, is to keep our minds engaged.