Three nights ago, it felt almost like summer in Melbourne. It was warm and balmy, and a big bowl of delicious Malaysian Laksa was staring me in the face. ”Eat me. Eat me quick.” it said. Who was I to say no?
How lucky I was: a table-full of languages
I was surrounded by four fellow French-learners from my Alliance Française class: to my left, a friend who also speaks German and Chinese, and is moving to Vienna next year to study at university in German (!). To his left, the only guy in our class who is able to make jokes that are actually funny in French. Next, my wife, a bilingual who’s adding French to Spanish and English, and lastly, another classmate who already speaks excellent Japanese. Between us, 6 languages at a Malaysian restaurant. As a language nerd, I was in language nerd heaven.
Move to Zambia, anyone? – Language Learners tend to do amazing things
These are the kind of people you tend to meet in language courses. Over the past 12 years or so, I’ve attended enough language classes to make most people curl up into the foetal position and ask ‘why, oh why?’. One reason is that the people I meet in the classes are unique and amazing. Meet these two:
“Yeah, I just thought it would be fun to pack up and go and teach English to orphans in Zambia. Then I travelled through Africa for a while.” You did what? A friend from my French class told me this last week. Astounding. Now that’s what I call using your language skills as a force for good.
Australian-born former German classmate: “My (less than 1 year old) daughter is saying some words in German now. Hopefully she’ll grow up being bilingual.”. He reads to her often in German. Consider for a moment: most bilinguals grow up either as having native-speaking parents and being introduced (or forced) into learning, or by learning of their own prerogative. This friend, however, has taken it upon himself to teach his daughter his (excellent) German from birth. As a non-native speaker, he is giving his daughter the chance to grow up bilingual; a chance he didn’t have himself. It’s amazing.
The anonymous reasons why
Above are just two examples. Then there are the thousands of other language wizards who learn a new language to ‘fit in’, travel the world, move countries, get closer to their family, do business, enjoy art, watch movies, read poetry, or impress their partner. I’m constantly amazed at the variety of people that are interested in foreign tongues and cultures.
This tricky, because I could write much more than you’d want to read. I learned Japanese partly because I was forced to in the beginning. Then I felt a fire for it and couldn’t stop. I’ll confess I learnt German partly due to the creamy, delicious wheat beer. (Ok, perhaps more than partly.). I learnt Spanish to get closer to my wife (and partly to impress her when she was my girlfriend!) and be able to speak to her family.
And French? Well, I’m just studying French because I think it sounds wonderful. I once asked a French-Canadian friend to say “I’m going to kill you with an axe” in French… it still sounded beautiful. If that’s not evidence of a nice language, I don’t know what is.
Question: How about you? What’s your motivation for learning, and have you met any inspiring people along the way? I’d love to hear your comments below.
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Photo credit: residentevil_stars2001