Enfin – a blogging competition about something I can write passionately about. Kaplan, the language teaching people have set the The Kaplan Blogger Challenge, and asked me to write about the most important benefits of learning another language so here goes…… the first phase of the competition is about FB likes, so if you think what I’m saying below makes any sense to you, please hit the “like” button above…. thanks
I love being able to speak other languages because it brings me closer to the people in the countries I travel to. It’s that simple. Seeing a country without speaking the language is like seeing half the country.
I faffed around with languages at school and by the time I left could come up with some passable utterances in French but certainly not a conversation. Fast forward a few years (well, a lot actually) and I’m fluent in French, have a passable nit noi of Thai and a smattering of Spanish and Italian. I know I’ll never be French, Thai, Spanish or Italian but I also know that I can have a conversation with the people, get to know them a bit and make friends. There is definitely a sense of trust and respect which comes from someone attempting to speak your language. It shows that you’re making an effort, that you want to get to know their country more than a passing tourist. In some countries (like Thailand) there is a huge amount of surprise and delight from people when you ask for something in their native tongue since so few people make the effort.
My mother tongue is English and with that comes an ambivalence, an assumption that people will speak your own language. This makes it even more important to try other languages, to step beyond the arrogance of that assumption. Of course, I love the possibility that I might be sexier because I’m bilingual, that I know what I’m getting when I order in a French restaurant and that apparently I’m less likely to suffer “cognitive impairment” (see below), but the main thing for me is simply the people factor. We are all different, and by speaking other languages I can get to know and understand those differences, tell people about my own country and come to understand theirs. What a fantastic gift!
PS If you hit the Facebook “Like” button on this page I’ll love you forever (it’s above the post and under the title) Thanks