My first encounter with learning a foreign language started at the young age of 8 or 9 when I temporarily had to go to a predominately Mexican school. I remember struggling to learn math because my teachers would often speak in Spanish. This was no easy task for a native English speaker. Needless to say, my math is terrible. But I remember the joy of standing in our school auditorium, wearing my best dress and singing Feliz Navidad fluently with the rest of my class at Christmas. Ever since, I have had a love affair with this song and languages.
By middle school, I got accepted into a special Charter school which focused on language and technology. My school had the option of learning German or Spanish. Not surprising, I stuck with Spanish and excelled in my class. After two years and some mean girls later, I transferred to the German “house” in my school. My love of Spanish would eventually be wiped out and replaced by my new found love and connection to all things German.
All throughout high school and college, I would mostly study German and taking Spanish and French on the side. Spanish and French was practically hopeless for me as my pronunciation was terrible and I found German easier to use.
During my college years, I studied abroad in Heidelberg, Germany for a year. Unfortunately, I was placed in an all girls single apartment room with no German roommates. All my friends were other fellow American exchange students. This limited my interaction with German speakers and the experience was lost. However, by the second half of our year abroad, the American group and the European group of exchange students collided and for the first time, I was truly faced with speaking with people who didn’t speak good English. Our common language was German. Oh man, hand me a beer please!
After graduating university, I didn’t pursue my language degree any further. After all, what could I do with a German language degree in a country that spoke mostly English and Spanish?
I eventually quit my job, sold my car and my belongings and bought a one way ticket back to Germany. I had a fear that if I didn’t leave then, I was going to lose my German forever.
I sit here almost 3 years later, more fluent in German than any other time in my life. I use it on a daily basis and am now even at the point of picking up German jokes and idioms.
1. English is not spoken everywhere, right?
Therefore, why should you learn a language? You would be wrong if you said this. Yes, English is predominantly known (not spoken) everywhere, but it is not an every day norm in some countries. Countries try very hard to hold on to their language as it is a part of their culture and heritage.
Some countries like France even forbid English words to be integrated into their language. English is taking over the world in everything from universities to business which could threaten the existence of languages around the world. So why not help keep a language alive by learning to speak one!
2. To have better global understanding
The world might learn English in order to cater to the needs of English speakers, but this is not a way to learn about new cultures and understand why people are the way they are. Learning German for example has given me the power to understand Germans better as a people and lets me into their minds. That makes you more cultured and capable of traveling around the world with openness and acceptability.
3. You will make friends everywhere you go
If you can speak French to someone in France or German to someone in Germany, you will be welcomed with a smile on your face and leave with a new friendship. People like it when you try to speak their language to them instead of just assuming they will talk to you in English. Please don’t be that tourist.
4. It keeps your mind young
By constantly learning a new language, you are exercising your brain. The process of forming complex sentences and conjugating the verbs will help keep your brain healthy and help it to grow!
5. It’s fun to use it when you travel!
Wouldn’t you rather know how to say ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’ and ‘a beer please?’ in another language when you are traveling? Your travel experience will be rich in understanding and happiness as you speak to people in their language. It will make for some great memories!
6. It increases your employ-ability
Employers are always looking for people who speak more than just English, especially if they have branches or subsidiaries in other countries. They need people to be able to speak to those employees and who knows, you might just get sent abroad on a 6 month business trip. Great way to travel the world on the weekends when you aren’t busy working in the office!
7. You can live abroad!
Even if you have never studied a foreign language, you can learn one at any time! Although the sooner, the better. However, with or without a language, you can move abroad and live your dream eat Italian pizza and sipping on German wine if you are willing to pack up and move and learn a new language.
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