One of my passion is learning languages. I know, it seems strange and perhaps you think I am crazy enough. I admit I am addicted to learning, but I am fine, I can assure you I am so pleased every time I buy a new dictionary or I learn a new word in a different language.
It is like walking on a green hill in the morning by the end of March… The experience is unique and rewarding.
I always admired the people that speak more than one language, that express themselves easily and use a second language for example like it was their mother-tongue. I feel a sort of admiration for those that switch so easily from one language to another! I almost envy them for this linguistic ability. They are my heroes, because they can communicate at ease anytime using the languages that speak fluently and so naturally.
One Lebanese friend once told me that if you speak 4 languages, you are equal to 4 persons!! And I suddenly thought that a person that speaks 8 languages will be definitely an international person, a real linguistic treasure.
It is said that learning a language shouldn’t be a difficult task for a child, but for the adults this could be a real nightmare! It can also become a challenge or even a “blessing”, if not a “curse”, as Charlotte West says in her article: THE CHALLENGE OF LEARNING SWEDISH.
Adults usually start learning a foreign language because their lives enter a new stage that force them to take some very serious decisions: moving to a different country, accepting the challenge of a better job and more professional opportunities, getting married to a foreigner, starting a new life far away from home, being offered a scholarship to improve professional or career development, and so on.
These are only some reasons I can think about right now and they are all linked to people I know or are based on my personal experience. This means that at a point learning the new language is also a change in our personal map: we are suddenly pinned in a new place, surrounded by new people and every single thing is new!
The feeling sometimes might be of frustration, of getting practically lost and totally absent in front of the huge horizon. This is normal because we experience a change and we need to create our personal shield in order to get used to the new world. Communication is not possible if we are stuck in a tricky one-way road. We usually communicate verbally and use the proper words to express our needs, feelings and requests.
We also use body language or non-verbal types of communication, as body contact, hand and head movements, sounds and pauses or stressing words, facial expression and eye movements, posture and closeness; even the appearance is an indicator of how we communicate.
This is why we should pay attention to loads of aspects and the truth is that we do not only speak by words but also by gestures. It is part of the language process and the more you practise the more intrigued you feel because a language is not only a set of grammar rules and vocabulary, it is very complex and requieres a lot of practice if we want to understand how it works at both social and cultural levels. Sometimes we think that we only need a good dictionary and some intensive classes, but this is not enough. The preparation is not only grammar-based, it should at least include a close focus on aspects of culture and civilization.
The real life is cruel sometimes and lacking the proper words or mispronouncing could become a total disaster, people couldn’t understand you or simply misinterpret your very good intentions.
The practice will lead to a process of automation and the language will be used every time more fluently, the effort for pronunciation and the correct use of vocabulary and grammar will be minimum and the self-confidence will boost up your motivation and you will feel more self-esteem than ever!
When we speak another language we automatically become more aware of our personal identity. If our intention is to know the new culture and to become part of its society, we have to know that speaking the language is not enough.
The effort we make can be seen at different levels in our life, from work to leisure activities, and we can even live the experience of being a new person because you have to adapt to the new country and language, so this is part of the integration in a new personal geography.
We become multi-cultural and multi-lingual, we learn to share our culture and to accept the new one using all the resources we have, but the language is the strongest!
I have just found this article and it also focuses on our need to learn a foreign language. It reinforces my idea of how learning a language can become an innocent… addiction!
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