Everyone has their own ideas on why language learning rocks their world. Here are four of mine.
1. Communicate with millions
The sheer thought of being able to compete with millions more people than you could before you started learning is an exhilirating idea. The possibilities in work, life, friendships and travel open up exponentially when you can talk with millions of people. Sure, you need to be in contact with them (sitting at home thinking “great, I can speak with more people now” won’t do you much good), but the possibilities are endless.
Example: Before I started learning, I communicated with the English speakers of this world. Fair enough. Once I added Japanese, my audience went up by 120 million people. Spanish: 300+ million. German: 90+ million. That’s over 500 million people than I could speak to before my smiling high school teachers forced me into starting Japanese.
Will I ever speak with all 500 million? Of course not. But isn’t it exciting to think that, even if I only speak with 100 of the 500+ million folks who might understand my natterings, I could make some great friends, increase my chances for business, taste some local cuisine or just be able to enjoy travelling more. After learning Japanese, Spanish and German, I’ve been able to make lots of great friends, use Japanese and Spanish in an international Fortune 20 company, increase my salary by almost double within a year (by taking a role which needed a Japanese speaker), travelled smoothly across Japan, Germany, Colombia, Chile, Germany and Switzerland, and be the subject of laughter to many generous helpers along the way.
2. Ahh, the beauty of visible progress
Last week, I could only talk about what I was doing today. Now, I can talk about what I’m going to do tomorrow.
It’s easy to see how you improve every week with a new language. Unlike may other learning curves which leave you wondering “where am I?”, over the span of one week, or even one class, you can see your progress.
Example: The main reason I loved teaching Spanish was seeing students progress. They were so hesitant at the start of the course, not realising that I was also terrified (in the beginning) of speaking in front of them. 8 weeks later at the end of teh course, many of them were speaking to me mostly in Spanish, using what they’d learnt. This is a very rewarding experience both as a teacher and a student.
3. Music, movies, friends and food-quaffing
The cultural benefits of speaking the language are so exciting as to defy belief. (If you think that’s a bit dramatic, you may be right, but that’s how I feel about languages. Weird.) You’ll learn more about the food you’re eating at a German restaurant if you can ask the waiter in German. You’ll enjoy movies more if they’re in your target language (or even with subtitles if you’re not quite there yet or it’s Friday night). People will naturally warm to you when you speak their language. They see and appreciate all the effort you’ve gone to, to learn how to communicate with them.
4. Bust people when they talk about you
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of speaking to someone who’s just insulted you in another language. I hear stories about this all the time. In the elevator, on the train or in the office, most people just don’t expect you to understand their native language, and some will talk about you behind your back. It’s usually innocent, but it’s still fun. It seems we English-speakers are the only people who expect everyone to speak our language.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to understand what others are saying around you, in the hope that you can bust them, or even better, make a smart reply to what they’ve just said about you?
I’m very passionate about learning languages. They’ve enriched my life more than I could ever have imagined. I’ve lived in Japan, recieved job offers, got free drinks, and – best of all – said my wedding vows to my wife in Spanish, all because I started learning languages. Above are just a few reasons why I think they’re life changing.
Question: How has learning a language changed your life? What other reasons motivate you to learn, or try learning, new languages? Tell us in the comments section below.