Sunday, 26 October 2014

Learning A New Language: Why Not?

Learning is free and unlimited. Whether it's language or a musical instrument or a new skill such as drawing, there is nothing people can't teach themselves if they take a bit of time or effort.  It opens up many doors and exercises the mind in new and enriching ways.

 Learning a new language is of the most instantly rewarding things a person can do. Speaking to someone in their own language, even if at the most basic, will often elicit a very appreciative response. Take a look at Mark Zuckerberg surprising a Chinese audience.

They are amazed and appreciative that he is making an effort at speaking in their own language. His pronunciation is off and it's not perfect but that point is he is speaking Mandarin. For the people in the audience, it just may be one of the very few times that they've heard a foreigner speaking their language beyond a few basic phrases such as "How are you?".

Why Learn A Language?

The question should rather be "Why not?".   It's as simple as buying a phrasebook with some basic grammar lessons or even looking at videos online.  You can go to YouTube and type in a simple search such as 'Learn German' or 'Learn Mandarin'.

A very useful tool is Google Translate, where you can type in any phrase and then see AND hear how it sounds in another language.  You can see how it works here:


Language is communication and communicating with others is still very important in today's modern age, whether electronically of face-to-face.  Just as courtesy is important in written form such as texting or emailing, it is also very important verbally.

Learning a language is a very high form of courtesy.  It means that you don't expect everyone to simply speak English whether you are travelling somewhere or receiving visitors.

Mark Zuckerberg's audience were well-versed in English and he simply could have spoken in English but he went a very huge step beyond that in speaking Mandarin.

Look at Kobe Bryant.  He's a 5-time NBA champion and one of the best basketball players of all time but he still is game at learning and speaking some Spanish.

In the interview, Kobe mentions that he already speaks Italian and so Spanish is a bit easier to learn because they are very similar.  It still looks very impressive that he can do more than just shoot a basketball!

Of course, you don't have to learn a language 100% fluently.  If you wish, you learn a smattering of a few languages or basic phrases of many languages.  I remember meeting and speaking with a mother and daughter at an event.  The mother herself was speaking a foreign language and the daughter was translating.  I asked the daughter what language her mother was speaking and she said Norwegian.  

I knew a couple of phrases and said, "God dag. Hvorden gar det?".  The reaction was literally priceless.  When I was complimented on my Norwegian and the fact that I could say a greeting, I simply said the other phrase I knew, "Tusen takk" (thank you).  Now I have a place to stay if I should ever visit Olso!

Knowing another language, however little, breaks down so many barriers.  Get learning!

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