The importance of learning a new language

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The more languages you know, the more you are human –T. G. Masaryk.

Although it is hard to believe, there are around seven thousand languages in the world, of which nearly 13% are dying or are close to extinction. The globalised lifestyle of today tries to simplify our lives and suppresses smaller cultures as well as our own. With the many translation tools available, the Internet, and the growing importance of English, people are forgetting about the value of studying foreign languages as well as maintaining their own. Not only do languages connect our thoughts with our expressions, they also form a bridge between people, their culture and cultures around them. Studying languages has been my hobby for many years and I will tell you why.

The first foreign language I encountered was French. I was around nine years old when I decided that I wanted to learn it. Even though I gave up quite soon because I was not motivated, I do not regret attempting it. It was the enthusiasm and stories of my teacher who had been living in the French countryside that gave me my initial understanding of what lies behind languages.

The second language I came across was Latin at grammar school. Even though I did not find the six years of Latin classes particularly interesting, it introduced me to another important aspect of languages. I found out what the ancestor of other European languages looked like and how grammar works. After that, I was prepared to get down to Spanish – my favourite. When studying it I could appreciate all the amazing aspects that languages have to offer – passion, relatively easy vocabulary, its wide usage and the fascinating cultures of Spain and South America. This was a milestone for me.

Soon after, I started Mandarin, because I was really interested in Chinese culture. When I got an opportunity to study Mandarin in China, the last piece of the language puzzle was revealed to me. My experience showed me how big an advantage I had when I visited the city of Shanghai, where very few people speak English. My basic knowledge of Mandarin enabled me to explore the city with confidence and ease, and gave me the chance to experience life there. I understood the strong bond between every language and culture. Nowadays, my knowledge of foreign languages helps me get to know new people and broaden the possibilities of my life. I feel more welcomed when travelling, and happy when I make travellers feel the same when I’m able to give them advice.

When translating or studying languages from English textbooks, rather than Czech, I realise how similar languages are and how they express thoughts in various ways. It is said that everyone can learn several foreign languages, so get down to it and find out more about the world. The new you will appreciate it.

Here are a few hints to begin learning a new language:

  1. Choose a language that you really like or have a connection with. Don’t just rely on its usefulness or on claims that it is easy to learn. Do you like spending holidays in Italy or enjoy eating Italian food? Go for Italian!
  2. After you’ve chosen your language, visit the library and try to learn the first few chapters of textbooks, or browse the Internet and try out an online course to discover whether this language suits you. Everybody masters various languages in different ways. When you think you have found the language that suits you, look for a recommended book that concentrates on useful phrases and everyday vocabulary. You could even start a language course!
  3. Soon after learning the basics, get a simple book in this language for practice, and learn more about the culture. Why not try cooking original local recipes or watching local films with subtitles to practice your pronunciation? When you gain confidence in the language, you could visit the country for a language course or simply for travelling. This will help you practice more, as well as deepen your appreciation for the culture.
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