Three Reasons why Learning Another Language is a Great Idea

As of this writing, it is estimated that there are over 7,000 languages that are spoken around the world and of those many thousands, over 50% of the world’s population speak only 23 of those languages (Eberhard, Simons, and Fennig, 2019).  The top 5 languages in the world are currently Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi, and Arabic which in total have nearly 3 billion native speakers (keep in mind that the total world population now stands at around 7.5 billion people). Although there are 7,000 languages in the world, if a person were able to speak the top five languages, they would be able to communicate with nearly half of the people in the world.  Nowadays it’s much easier to learn a language than it was in the past. More foreign language books have been published, language centers are found in every corner of the globe, teachers can be found through various platforms (including yours truly), and we can do language exchanges either online or by meeting up with foreigners who live in our countries. The options are endless. Although there is more ease when it comes to language learning today, it still takes a bit of work to reach a good or even advanced level.  Is the time, effort, and money spent on learning a second language worth it? Without a doubt, it is, and for a great many reasons, three of which will be discussed below.
Reason One: Connecting with others and building relationships.
When we travel to another country on vacation, the locals might speak our language, which of course would make things easier for us.  However, if we speak the language of the locals, we’ll be able to get a better insight into their culture, history, and also understand people that we come across on a more personal level.  Nothing is lost in translation, and we communicate directly with them without walls. The same is true with immigrants who might come to our countries. We’re able to befriend them and teach them about the country they’re becoming a part of and we’re also able to learn from them and hear their stories directly from their mouths.  By the same token, immigrants who learn the language of their adopted country will find it easier to adapt to the place they’re living in. Instead being isolated from the rest of the population, they might find it easier to interact with their new neighbors, colleagues, and classmates among others. In addition to traveling and immigration, speaking another language can allow us to make international friends based on things such as hobbies, specialty groups, and so forth.  A person who is interested in diving might join groups on social media and get advice from people who speak the language that he or she has learned. A person who loves fashion might connect with groups of Italians and French people to learn about new fashion trends in those countries and if they speak Italian or French, they may be able to go more into depth when they have discussions with group members.
Reason Two (and maybe the most discussed): Work and Professional Reasons
The world is a globalized one and many workers find themselves interacting with clients from different countries and regions.  This is especially true now that so much marketing is occurring online at a greater rate than ever before. The wider your language base, the wider your reach will be to potential consumers.  Language and culture tend to be intertwined; when you learn a second language, you often pick up parts of the culture related to that language as well. People who pick up a second language may have a deeper understanding about the culture that they’ll be interacting with professionally.  Having this understanding will enable a businesswoman or a company chairman to be sensitive to specific parts of the culture they’re dealing with and this can engender a deeper level of respect between two (or more) parties that have to work together. Additionally, taking the time to learn a language to a high degree will show others that you care about their culture and can make them more receptive to you when you’re dealing with each other.
Reason Three: Access to Information
True, there are many books and works of literature that are translated into other languages, so you might be able to read works by international authors in your own language.  However, imagine being able to read Dostoevsky in Russian, Coehlo in Portuguese, or Garcia Marquez in Spanish. How much of their style, emotion, depth of meaning, and more would you get by reading directly from the words of these writers compared to having to first go through the “wall” of a translator?  Nowadays, it’s about even more than just books. Reading is great, and of course, can’t be stressed enough, but the explosive growth of media globally has been and continues to be immense. Consider streaming movie and TV platforms such as Netflix. Once, it was known mainly for American or mainly English language programming.  Now, original content is being produced from and for other regions in the world in the languages of these regions. As with books, translations are available as well as subtitles, but how different is it to hear an actor or actress speak in their own language? Their passion in an emotional debate, their energy when filled with anger, their speech when they’re out of breath during a fight scene, all of these (and more) are things that carry over more strongly when they come from the original actor rather than the voice actor.
Although I’ve only mentioned three, there are a myriad of reasons why learning a second language isn’t only a good idea, but a great one.   What are some other reasons you can think of? Comment down below and let’s get a discussion started.

6 Ways to Immerse Yourself (Language Immersion part 2)

In the previous article, I wrote about immersion, why it’s important and how immersion can be done both in your country as well as when you travel overseas to learn. In this article, I’ll give 6 ways that you can immerse yourself in a language while you still live in your country.
1. Read novels in the language that you’re learning.
How often do you read? Do you have a book in your hand when you use public transportation on your way to work? Maybe when you’re waiting at a doctor’s office or for some service, you do a bit of quick reading until your time comes to be served. Perhaps you read in the evenings or on the weekends at home or in a cafe. If you’re a reader in your native language, why not try to read in the language you’re learning? You can even read the translated versions of the same books that you’re already a fan of.
2. Commit yourself to using the target language (the language that you’re trying to learn) for a certain amount of time each day.
For example, you might say that your commitment is to speak the target language 2 hours a day each day. You can also use the language when talking with friends in real life, as well as over the phone or online. Some might recommend a language exchange, but since we’re focused on immersion, an exchange might not be the best option. Working with a private tutor would be better.
3. Netflix!
Netflix is an excellent way to add to the immersive experience. Due to Netflix being an international company, many of their programs are dubbed into one language or another. If a show you’re interested in is dubbed into the language you want learn, then take advantage and watch the show.
4. Create a community of speakers
One of the difficulties that can be faced by a language learner is to have people with whom he or she can speak and do activities with. If you’re facing this issue, why not consider creating a community of speakers? Through the internet and social media, you can find people who are like you and engage in activities together. Trips to the museum, a night at the movies, time together at a café, game night, the options are endless. With everyone in your group speaking the target language during the entire time of your activity, you’ll find regular occasions where you’re actually immersed in the language. In fact, your community will be like a bubble in the world around you.
5. Go to events where the language will be used
In addition to creating your own community, you can also be active in seeking out events where the language you’re learning is being used. Does an embassy host events for their citizens? Are there any holidays or cultural affairs happening that you can attend? Maybe a prominent person from that culture will be coming to give a talk to his/her compatriots. Search and find a way to join these events. You’ll be able to listen, speak, and fully interact with the individuals who attend these events and who knows, maybe even strike up a friendship or two.
6. Regularly organize events where the language can be used
Maybe you couldn’t create a community of speakers. Maybe you couldn’t go to events where the language is being used because it’s too far or because you simply couldn’t get access. Don’t worry, the next best thing is to organize your own events. Can you create a meet and greet or a networking event for speakers and/or learners? Could there be a cultural exchange, where all participants use the language, but each speaks with a partner to talk about their respective culture? Maybe you could talk to a local cinema owner or manager and ask if they’d be willing to screen a movie in that language and then have a discussion afterward. Whatever you do, the possibilities are endless.
These are some ideas of ways to immerse yourself in a language while you are in your home country. The point of this article is to give you suggestions for creating an immersive environment. You shouldn’t feel helpless when it comes to your language learning journey. More things are in your control than aren’t, so give it a shot and try to create your ideal language immersion today.
 

Language Immersion (part 1)

We often hear that one of the best ways to learn a foreign language is by traveling overseas and living in a country for a period of time so we can become immersed. The idea is that if we live in the country where the language that we want to learn is spoken, we’ll be surrounded by the language whether it’s by seeing signs, hearing people talk, maybe having to write using the language, and of course speaking the language with people we come across. It’s true that when we travel, we’re surrounded by a different culture as well as a different language, but can being surrounded by a different language always be called immersion?
According to the Google definition, to immerse means to “involve oneself deeply in a particular activity”. Working with that definition, simply being in a place where we’re surrounded by a language doesn’t automatically mean that we’re immersed in the language. Consider, for example, the student who goes to study abroad for three or four months in Tunisia. This student takes intensive language classes five days a week for four hours each day. Outside of the classroom, they do homework and study. However, the student hasn’t made any friends and in fact, barely talks with the locals. The conversations between the student and the locals are limited only to shopping and services: “I need…” or “Can you give me…?” or “Where is the nearest…?” Maybe the student watches TV shows in their native language, maybe they listen to music from their home country. The point I’m making here is that being in a country doesn’t mean that one has immersed themselves. By the same token, if we are students and we want to immerse ourselves, it’s not always necessary to leave our countries. Yes, the last part is true, you can actually immerse (or at least semi-immerse) yourself while you’re in your home country.
Using the definition that was mentioned above “involving oneself deeply in a particular activity” how can we immerse ourselves when it comes to language learning? How can we involve ourselves in the activity of learning a language? Let’s take a Brazilian student who’s learning English as an example. She lives in Rio de Janeiro and around her, the vast majority of people speak Portuguese. No problem, she has some friends who speak English. Some of them are expats from English speaking countries, others are fellow Brazilians who have learned the language very well. When she’s with these friends, she only speaks English. She texts these friends and others that she met online in English. She also sends emails and comments in English while online so her writing can improve. She watches movies and TV shows (especially on Netflix) and listens to music in English. She also has a nice collection of novels, magazines, and poetry written in the English language. Although this student is a Brazilian living in Brazil, she might spend at least a couple of hours each day using the English language and she has succeeded in partially immersing herself in the language that she’s learning. Rather than using the language only in textbooks and to answer homework assignments (like our first student), this student is living and breathing the language that she wishes to learn. She has involved herself deeply in learning English, she has immersed herself.
Although location can play a role, at the end of the day, immersion is less about place and more about action. The action that you take, and the constant and consistent effort that you exert when learning your new language is what determines the level of immersion that you’ll experience. If you’re interested in learning a language so you can get the immersive experience, but you don’t have the time and/or money to do travel abroad, don’t fret, you can get close to the same kind of benefit while you’re living in your home country. In fact, this might even be a better situation, because the more you learn while you’re in your home country, the more you’ll be able to do and experience when you’re finally able to travel abroad. With a little bit a creativity and a lot of hard work, the immersive experience can be right in the palm of your hands.
Question of the day: What steps can you take this week to make an immersive environment for yourself in your home country?