“Learning another language is like becoming a new person” Haruki Murakami
Language learning, like most things in my life, was an impulse decision.
One day I woke up and decided to try again.
And not just one language, but four.
French. Italian. Greek. German.
Yes, they are all European language with a lot of similarities to English, but each language poses its own challenges, in pronunciation, spelling, grammar (which I haven’t even encountered in depth), and alphabet (in terms of Greek).
We make decisions all the time. Whether we stick with the habit however, is a different matter entirely.
Why had I experienced so many language learning flops before?
From learning Italian in primary school- the one benefit being that I can still confidently count to ten from what I learnt there, to then attempting again a semester of Italian my first year in university, it still couldn’t quite stick.
From learning French in high school, and again nothing sticking, apart from the obvious-Bonjour, Au revoir, Oui, Je’mapelle, the only phrases I could confidently use.
What does it take for a language to stick?
The answer is there is no magic formula. I have found COUNTLESS books, websites, YouTube, podcasts and audio tapes.
Quite frankly, I wanted to be fluent in three months a la Benny Lewis.
But also, quite frankly, I haven’t set realistic goals or realistic time frames.
It almost feels like I have information overload and need to start again fresh.
There is only time. And because I want to learn a language well, with excellent native like pronunciation, learning becomes that much more of a challenge, when you second guess your accent or think you will never be able to pronounce that word that you hear for the first time.
It’s a process that requires daily maintenance. And hey, even though our ancestors learned languages in an antiquated fashion, if they can do it with limited resources, than so can I!
LANGUAGE LEARNING: THE BENEFITS
The benefit of learning not one but multiple languages has been revelatory. I don’t know what I was doing with my time up until I started learning languages. I just find the whole processes fascinating and mysterious, and in short everything that is needed to keep someone’s interest in something.
So yes I still lack complete confidence in my pronunciation and whether I can even hold a basic conversation. That is still not where it needs to be.
But the imperceptible changes that learning a language has afforded me is amazing. Your thought processes expand to fit new sounds, spelling and ideas. You hear the musicality in each language. You learn new physical manoeuvers as your attempt the mouth placement of sounds foreign to your native language.
It opens up an appreciation for language that is unparalleled. I thought I appreciated the English language, but having all these other competing languages makes it that much more enjoyable.
Foreign language is like my muse, I’m fascinated by it. There are dozens of languages I want to learn, at the risk of becoming a language butterfly.
It is amazing but billions of people are bilingual, also making it common.
My new heroes are not overpaid celebrities, but people who can speak multiple languages. I want to emulate them, learnt their tricks of the trade, do whatever they did to get where they are.
I basically just woke up one day and decided I wanted to learn multiple languages. It is that simple.
The motivation comes and goes. Sometimes I feel progress, other times I feel stupid, incompetent and like a damn moron.
Realising that the whole world doesn’t speak English is eye opening. I see French everyday in Canada, but more often than not, I completely ignore it. Why is that? My own ignorance due to not understanding?
Even now I look at masses of foreign text and feel overwhelmed.
Language learning is a consistent, put in the hard work when no one’s watching and then make it seem effortless task. It’s not for the faint of heart and there are no shiny rewards or recognition at the end. But if you do it for the joy of it, even if it means speaking to no one in your foreign language but yourself in your head, you will be immensely satisfied.