I have enjoyed learning new languages since i started secondary school. I feel like I was very monolingual and a bit close-minded until I discovered that other languages exist and that it is possible to communicate with those who speak them.

I now love learning new languages and learning about the culture and history related to them, and I have even read translated novels, and attempted to read novels in their native language.

When I went to university and decided to study English Literature, I decided to study it jointly with English Language in a bid to learn more about my mother-language.  Through learning the history of English and all the little things that make it the global language that it is today, I realise how easy we native English-speakers have it. The rest of the world seems to want to learn English in order to feel more Western, and to communicate with and do business with the West. I appreciate that English is bizarre to those who are learning it, especially with our crazy spellings with seemingly pointless silent letters and different stresses on certain syllables, and the weird sounds like “th”, and maybe we have made it difficult for others to learn. English has gone through many changes over the years since its beginnings, with new words added through numerous invasions of the UK by the Vikings, the French, the Romans and so on, and several attempts to standardise it. Many words have fallen by the wayside and new ones have replaced them and through these we discover just how complicated English is.

When you think how every language has developed over time, then you realise just how little we know of the languages of the world.

Just learning a few words of a different language, and learning about the culture behind it, is enough to make you appreciate your own language more. When I struggle with pronunciation and spelling, I remember that others struggle to learn English in the same way.

Some languages are infinitely easier to pick up than others, especially if it’s from a similar language family: for example, English is close to French and Spanish on one side and to German on the other. Therefore, I find it easy to pick up these languages. Then there are the really hard ones like Arabic and Chinese, with a whole new alphabet and sounds and words. I struggle with Arabic but I found that I understood it much better once I could understand a few letters or words.

Many people don’t want to learn another language because they think everyone can speak English to some level, what with a lot of the internet being in English and English being such a global language. But if everyone spoke English, then the world would be very boring. People appreciate it if you learn a bit of their language and try to use it to speak to them, and it makes you much more open-minded and willing to learn more about a country through learning their language.

When I was studying English at university, I researched and wrote essays on how languages affect people in a country: for example, I looked at how Finland used to have Swedish as its official language for years under Sweden’s rule until Finnish was instated as the country’s main language. I also looked at the levels of language learning in Australia which is still very English-orientated, despite being closer to countries like China, and not many people learn to speak a foreign language even with most of its citizens being immigrants from countries all over the world. And America is one country where people don’t really learn other languages. It is a large continent with a huge variation of climates and cultures between its states, so there isn’t a huge need to travel abroad when you could just spend your life exploring the massive land that is the USA. Therefore there isn’t such a huge need to learn languages unless you need to travel the world. Maybe I’m being unfair on the US, but despite the many immigrants who went there, they still speak English as their main language. The only variation is the larger Spanish-speaking population closer to the border with Mexico and Southern America.

With so many people learning English in the world, I do sometimes worry that we are losing some languages with fewer native speakers. The world is slowly becoming less varied when our cultures are blending into each other and many languages are being used less in favour of English. It seems kind of selfish expecting everyone to speak English and yet not bothering ourselves to learn their languages as well.

What do you think?

  1. Priya says:

    This is wonderful. Having been brought up in India, I grew up speaking two native languages (my mother tongue and the official language, Hindi) along with English. But it was when I learnt German that I realized how learning a new language is like learning about a whole new culture and it is such a treasure! German grammar is a lot closer to Indian languages and was easy to pick up. But I would love to discover more about the world through other languages; it’s always been my dream to learn Sanskrit (which fears extinction through lack of speakers!) and Arabic! But I think I’ll start with French.
    “If everyone spoke English, then the world would be very boring.” That is so true!

    • I’ve never looked at Indian languages before, and i’m intrigued by you saying their grammar is closer to German grammar, so maybe it would be easier for me to learn them. Sanskrit could be a good one to look at!
      French is good, i picked it up really easily at school as it was my first foreign language but i’m a bit rusty nowadays, especially as i prefer German! Good luck with learning French!

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