For as long as I can remember, I struggled with learning other languages. There are studies that show that children who are exposed on a regular basis to more than one language from a young age more easily pick up new languages in adulthood.
I was not a child that was exposed to more than one language. Though my great-grandfather was French Canadian, and my mother knew bits and pieces of French when she was growing up, we spoke only English in our household.
In the Canadian school system, children begin learning French (our second national language) in the fifth grade. I was lucky enough to be in a grade 4/5 split, so I began learning the language when I was 9.
I found it easy enough when I was in class, but as soon as we went away on summer vacation, I’d lose half of what I’d learned. My brain just wasn’t moulded in a way that picked up and held languages well, and I didn’t use it on a consistent enough basis. In high school, as we continued on with our French studies, I lost interest and thought it was a stupid subject. In fact, instead of learning in class, I’d carve out pictures of goofy children from the 1990s that populated my textbook and plaster their faces later over my friend’s locker. The only French word I retained was “pamplemousse” (grapefruit), as I thought it was a hysterical word which I would try to slip into my conversations with friends.
I now regret my disdain toward my language class when I was younger. If I had embraced it, I may be more able to converse in the language now. There are many reasons why I’d love to learn another language at this point.
If you are travelling long term (or even for just a couple of weeks), it’s very difficult to adapt when you can’t speak the language. Asking for a beer when you really want the bathroom is problematic and confusing. I’d feel more comfortable travelling to other countries and places if I knew the language better.
If somebody approached me with the opportunity to live in Paris for a year, my first instinct would be to jump at it. My second instinct would be some major hesitation, because I would have a hard time functioning not knowing the language.
Opportunities like this come your way more often when you are familiar with the language, too.
Not only will you get more job opportunities if you can speak more than just your native language, but you also may be able to do a wide variety of duties, or be paid more. You likely will be able to get a more desirable job (such as a government job) due to being bilingual.
People that speak more than one language are in high demand in the job market as they aren’t as common as you might assume.
Keeping an Open Mind
Exploring and learning new languages can help you keep an open mind, as well. It helps you become more cultured and by learning another language, you also tend to learn a bit more about the countries that the language is native to.
Being able to converse with people native to that language and read literature in that language can also help you learn and keep an open mind.
They say that once you learn one language, it is easier for you to learn another. Learning different languages can help you phonetically which thereby making it easier for you to be able to develop into new sounds and speech.
There are many benefits to learning another language. Now that I’m older I’ve been trying to absorb more French words and one of my goals has always been to be able to speak French.
Do you speak any other languages? Do you find you have more opportunities in being able to do so?
I know a bit of French and a little bit of Spanish, not enough to be fluent by any means but enough when travelling to ask for the basics.
I wish I was fluent in French, living in Canada for one, and being so close to Quebec.
I love visiting Montreal and it would be great to be bilingual for all my visits.
I think that knowing enough to be able to travel with it is a great start!
It’s really important to learn another language. Though, my advice is to do it when you’re still young, though learning a different language even at an older age is still possible, but more difficult.
I hear that all the time 🙂 Luckily I’m still young!
Yeah, it is always easy to learn a new language when you are young. You have good grasping power and great zeal to learn during childhood. I know little Spanish but I always wanted to learn another language like French or German
Spanish is a great start. Many languages are similar!
One piece of advice that I can give is that it is really really hard to become good at a language once you are older. Don’t believe those info-commercials on tv. I live in mexico for three months with a family that only spoke Spanish and went to a Spanish school and even after 3 months I had a long ways to go. I could communicate, but it was still difficult to understand and there are so many things you want to say but can’t.
So it is hard, but I also want to say that it is so much fun and worth it.
This is definitely something I hear often – there will be struggles no matter your age, I think.
I speak bits and pieces of many languages. I used to work as a sub for the school district and sometimes speaking another language was the only way to get a student to do something. So, yes, knowing a bit of other languages was very helpful and did open up more opportunities for me.
That’s really cool – you must be doing something right!
I’m fluent in Polish and learning Spanish.
I love being able to speak another language. I speak with Polish people often and we can say whatever we want to each other and nobody understands!
I went to Poland in 2011 and just wandered around trying to get better at the language. It was awesome.
I would totally recommend learning another language.
It also helps your social life.
Wow, Polish – I would assume that would be a difficult language to learn.
I think it’s important to know other languages. We Americans generally only on English while the Europeans know more languages. I’m Chinese-American so I speak Chinese, my parents spoke to me in Chinese and sent me to school on Sundays…so I’m okay but like you I wish I had paid more attention as I think know more languages is useful. I did well in Spanish class also and I’m okay with it. My wife speaks Spanish, Chinese and English. We trying to speak to our son in all three languages but I don’t how that will work. We definitely would like him to be multilingual!
That’s a great idea, to speak to your son in as many languages as possible while he’s still so young!
Daisy! This is a huge hole in my knowledge. My English is not even that great. Can I count music? It feels like a language. Anyhow, I love your thoughts on opportunity and jobs. They make awfully good sense. Have a nifty one!!
Music is a whole other language that I have no concept of 🙂 So sure, count it!
Without continual use, I find my ability to speak a foreign language rapidly diminished. Thirty years ago, I was nearly fluent in Russian. Now I only know a few words. I could perhaps get it back quicker than if I were learning a new language, but my loss of the language seems really strange. I used to be able to think in Russian. (To be fluent, you have to be able to think in the other language.) I can no longer do that, because I don’t remember the vocabulary. I suppose if I worked really hard at it, it would come back. Trouble is, I have no reason or incentive to do that.
Wow, I couldn’t even imagine being able to think in another language. I don’t even know that i think in English!
Most of my jobs needed me to speak another language or two, in Europe you have to learn English and usually a third language is the norm. Most companies have foreign customers so you have to be able to do business with them. Now I run this blog in English too and would have less readers I guess if it were in French.
These are the reasons why knowing other languages other than your primary one is so powerful!
I love foreign languages, and, in fact, I went to a Linguistic School to learn them. My main reasons were to be able to travel to different countries of the world and be able to understand and communicate with people form those countries. My dream came true, and I visited quite a few countries and learnt so much about them, because I spoke their language.
That is awesome. I have tried learning other languages but have not yet been successful. It is on my bucket list though to keep trying.
How many languages can you speak? I’m interested!
Ah, yes. I agree with all points you mention – I speak three languages and write in two (well, English is becoming dominant but…). It is time to start learning another one; apparently multi-lingual people get less dimentia as well. Another advantage is that our son was raise bi-lingual (though he isn’t). He certainly thinks in a very interesting way.
That is awesome. I am so jealous. I definitely want my kids to speak more than one language.
Which languages do you speak Maria? And which one are you looking to learn?
Bf is Filipino and speaking Tagalog to our children (future children) is something that’s really important to me. I don’t want them to lose a part of their culture because I don’t know the language. Ironically this is something that’s much more important to me than to him.
That’s so great! J doesn’t speak any other languages but if he did, that would be important to me too.