Five Real Reasons To Learn a Foreign Language
Start writing a post
Entertainment

Five Real Reasons To Learn a Foreign Language

Apart from possibly getting a higher pay and being more suave with learning a new language, as Geoffrey Willans says "You can never understand one language until you understand at least two."

20
Five Real Reasons To Learn a Foreign Language
The Life Pile

1. Learning a new language trains your brain to be versatile, flexible and disciplined.

Though the French language have many similarities with the English language, they also have some stark differences in the way the sentences are constructed. Sometimes it can be so challenging. For example, the English language has no “masculine” or “feminine” forms of words that users of the language have to consider.Using “le” or “la” in French becomes a real challenge for me as a comfortable English user. It really pushes my limits to treating the “le” and “la” as a natural instinct over time.

Another example for non French speakers is the way in which the object pronouns come before the verb. It might seem second nature to the French but for an English speaker, it still challenges me a little bit today. In English, I would say “Bobby has a ball. He throws it”. In French, however, a literal translation would be “Bobby has a ball. He it throws” (Bobby a une balle. Il la lance.) And don’t get me started on the French subjunctive!

For Chinese learners, people are often worried about the tones since the English language doesn’t have any of that. But having your brain be able to recognize tones and the way characters can come together to mean different things also demand a sort of flexibility and versatility that can be translated to music or learning other languages.

Often people are scared to learn Chinese because it takes time to gain an ear and a visual memory recognition of at least a few hundred characters to start out. However, the sentence structure in Chinese is also of a different kind and much more straightforward. There is no such thing as “tenses” but rather a sort of using different characters to explicitly state the time in which actions or thoughts are taking place. For example to say “Bobby threw the ball yesterday” in Chinese, it would literally be translated as “Bobby/yesterday/done to ball/ throw “ (Bobby /昨天/把球/扔了)

Patterns like this takes time and practice and has taught my brain to be more versatile, flexible, creative and disciplined. It can help you too!

2. Learning a new language makes you think critically and experimentally about your own language.

Have you ever thought about how some strange language rules or practices just came to be? Well you can find more by speaking another language!

Specifically from an English speaker’s point of view, one example is the word “to do.” Explaining it to other language speakers can be excruciatingly hard (at least to my Chinese friends and from what my French TA once mentioned), because “to do” technically doesn’t mean anything specific. What I mean is that you can always substitute “do” with another word or simply remove “do”.

Why say " I did my homework" when you can just say "I finished my homework."?

Why say "I did a lot of work today" when you can just say "I worked a lot today."?

“Do you want the burger?”

“I do want the burger?”

You could have just said,

“You want the burger?”

“I want the burger!”

Funnily, it means translating “I do” in marriage vows quite hard to do (see what I did there?). “I do” means “I will, love you, protect you, be there with you in suffering and in joy…blah blah” It just feels like a short cut in the English language, but in other languages, there isn’t a word similar in meaning to “do” with that kind of multipurpose utility. This has challenged me to use other words to replace "to do" often in my writing.

3. Learning a new language allows you to appreciate literature and poetry more deeply.

Great literature exists from all around the world.Reading a translated version can give you the story line, but can never give you the full context in the way the author had originally intended his or her reader to gain.

My favorite book is Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. And the opening line of the book is “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” This famous quote is so powerful because there is such a strong element of truth in the words. But it should make you wonder what the quote would sound like in Russian, the original sounds that made up that sentence. I do not speak Russian, but I imagine it sounds beautiful with an even sharper intent behind simply the literal meaning of the quote.

Here's a more specific example, now in Chinese. there is a really famous poem called 静夜思Jing Ye Si, meaning Pensive Thoughts from a Quiet Night by notable Chinese Poet 李白Li Bai from the Tang dynasty.

床前明月光, Chuáng qián míng yuè guang,
疑是地上霜。 Yí shì dì shàng shuāng.
举头望明月, Jŭ tóu wàng míng yuè,
低头思故乡。 Dī tóu sī gù xiāng.

Bright moonlight before my bed
Suspected frost upon the floor;
With a raised head one watches the moon,
With a lowered head, one thinks of home.

Though the poem is still beautiful when translated to English and you can now understand the literal meaning of the poem, but let's be real. It sounds pretty lame to an English reader. Because translations are always open-ended, the original sorrow, and flavor of the poem that one recognizes in Chinese is missing. To give you just a glimpse of what I mean, the third character in the title 思 means “to think”, but it also means “to miss", “to be in deep thoughts” and "to long for", with a sprinkle of “wishfulness”. The word reappears in the last line of the poem: “thinks of home.” Only by understanding the language and understanding that each character was used with a certain sound, with a certain sentiment, with a cultural setting, in conjunction with the other characters, can one appreciate the poem in its raw beauty.

4. Learning a new language allows you to appreciate calligraphy and reevaluate the power of written word.

A friend who specializes in linguistics once told me that all written languages today can be traced down to 3 original roots – Mesopotamian, Mesoamerican, and Ancient Chinese (Some argue Egyptian Cuneiform may have been a fourth independent source).

The way in which languages are put on paper was and has been an art, and almost gives a spiritual element to civilization different from a claw mark of a bear on a tree. There is power and symbolism to ink on paper, paintings on walls, and carvings in stones.

Today, we often take written word for granted. We often only use words as a mechanism to get meanings and instructions across. However, the written beauty of words is still ingrained deeply in any culture’s art form. There is a skill involved to perfecting it on paper or on canvas or on walls. There is a freedom to how a character, symbol or alphabet is expressed on a surface. Yet there is a standard to it such that one can recognize it. Each culture determines these standards and freedoms in different ways. Just take a look at the following few pictures! Each is different and carries a different artistic element of beauty, balance and discipline.

5. Learning a new language is the only way that will let you see that language is a beautiful form of expression, that each language has its own unique beauties and advantages, that because of the language you speak, your understanding of certain emotions and social concepts are different than others.

As mentioned earlier in the case of Chinese poem and the case of the English “to do”, there are words that just cannot be translated properly. But learning a new language can allow you to see that language is undoubtedly the ultimate means of expression. Here is a personal example I faced when dealing with languages:

In English we would say “I care for you”. In Chinese there are two synonymous words to the word “care”. They are 关心guang xin and 心疼xin teng。Both words include the character 心xin which stands for “heart”. 关心quite literally means “care.” You can use it to show your care for anyone from friends to your pet dog. But 心疼is different. The character next to heart is 疼teng which stands for “pain.” The combination of “heart” and “pain” creates an additional sentiment of caring that is reserved for a person so important to you who would go through pain for and with you. Your heart aches when you care for them. You 心疼your parents when they have worked a hard day to help the family. You 心疼your husband or wife when he or she has stood all day in line to get you your birthday present.

Maybe next time when I say “I care for you” in English, consider the idea that perhaps I am not doing justice to the "care" I want to express to you when what I mean is I 心疼 you.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Lifestyle

Where To Find The Best Coffee Drinks In America, According To A Survey

Here's the coffee shop where you should get your morning brew.

241071

Coffee, for billions of people, is one of the only things that can get us out of bed (after hitting snooze a time or two), especially in 2020. Because, if we're being honest, is there anything that beats a quality cup of coffee on those mornings when all we wanted to do is roll over and go back to sleep? The answer is no. And if you're headed to a coffee shop to pick up your caffeinated beverage, you don't want to sleep on the best coffee drinks in America.

According to LiveShopper Sassie's Coffee Project survey, when it comes to chain coffee shops, there are definitely preferred spots you'll want to hit up for your go-to order — whether you order the classic, frozen, or flavored coffee, an espresso, tea, or other. To figure out the hot spots, 1,000 coffee drinkers across the United States took to LiveShopper's mobile app, PrestoShopper, to answer various questions about their coffee drinking habits and preferences. In return, these survey respondents got money back for their coffee — something any user who downloads the app can do as well (yes, even you).

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

The Best Bagel Recipes For Every Personality Type, In Case You Need Another Excuse To Eat Carbs

I'll approve of pasta for breakfast any day, but this is more socially acceptable.

10927
NBC

I've had times in my life at which I've told myself I need to cut out carbs. Those moments last about a minute or two before I start daydreaming about rice and pasta.

Bagels hold a special place in my heart — for many of my college friends and me, a bagel sandwich was the go-to breakfast after a long night of drinking. Years later, I still love to indulge in the occasional carb-filled breakfast. As much as I love putting in an UberEats order from bed, nothing beats the feeling of pulling some fresh-baked bread or pastries out of the oven.

Keep Reading... Show less
Content Inspiration

Survey: Which Issues Are The Most Important To You In The 2020 Election

If you're a first-time voter or voting by mail for the first time, we want to hear your story.

85556

The general election on Tuesday, November 3, 2020, will decide not only the next president of the United States but also which political party controls the House of Representatives and the Senate. Young and first-time voters will play a crucial part in determining the result.

Keep Reading... Show less
Tips

Articles To Write If You're All About Saving More Money, And Waking Up A Little Bit Earlier

Get your day started right — and keep that budget tight.

219468

For all the young professionals, parents, and students out there who've been working, learning, or even teaching remote — 2020 has likely been the longest year of your life. If you didn't know (sorry), we've been locked down for over 200 days now, and chances are, you are ready for it to be OVER.

Keep Reading... Show less

Scrolling through Instagram can get stale after a while, especially if you're constantly refreshing in the hopes of finding something new and exciting. Should you be looking to add some inspiration to your timeline in the form of self-love tips, relationship advice, or love secrets, here are 11 relationship coaches you'll LOVE following.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

How Much Of A Coffee Snob You Are, Based On Where You Live

Your state may determine how picky you are about your coffee.

131814

When it comes to coffee, everyone has different criteria for what goes into their "perfect cup." Some caffeine lovers, though, are extra particular when it comes to their beloved beverage. One survey found that the state you're from (or the one you live in now) may play a part in determining how much of a coffee snob you actually are.

LiveShopper Sassie, the company behind this Coffee Project survey, received input from 1,000 coffee drinkers via their mobile app, PrestoShopper, to ask various questions about their coffee drinking habits and preferences. In return, these survey respondents got money back for their coffee — something any user who downloads the app can do as well (yes, even you).

Keep Reading... Show less

If you are a college freshman, or new to college, this is for you. If you are in a new time in life where you don't know where this change is going to take you, where you might not have your community yet, this is for you. Or even if you are stuck in a rut of everyday life where the new normal is quarantine and isolation, this is also for you.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

As Illinois Reaches Its Highest Death Toll Since June, I Urge You To Stay Home And Wear Your Mask

69 COVID-19 deaths were recorded in a twenty-four-hour period, the highest amount since June of this year.

811
Photo by Noah on Unsplash

As we are approaching colder weather, we are also approaching a spike in COVID-19 cases throughout the state of Illinois. On October 21, 2020, Illinois recorded its largest daily COVID-19 death toll since June of this year. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, 69 deaths of people who contracted COVID-19 were recorded within a twenty-four-hour period, raising the state's death toll to 9,345 since the start of the pandemic.

Keep Reading... Show less

When "Mean Girls" said "In girl world, Halloween is the one time of the year where you can dress up like a total slut and no one can do or say anything about it," they were damn right. Halloween is the perfect excuse to buy that raunchy costume and show your partner that you're that B. Coming from a very single (yes, very single) 20 something-year-old, I have already got my Halloween costume on lock, and now you will too.

Not only are these 10 Halloween costumes dangerously sexy, but you can wear them in the bedroom whenever you want to give your boo a surprise, yes, year-round. Whoever said you can only dress up on Halloween is seriously disturbed.

Keep Reading... Show less

Ariana Grande released her first single called "positions" since "boyfriend" with Social House and it is a BANGER. This song is absolutely incredible and I am SURE you will agree with me once you listen.

I'm a sucker for a single with a video and that's exactly what we got. Ariana's been pretty quiet during the pandemic, and we all assumed she was working on some new music, and we were right.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

Rejection Of Black Lives Matter Mural By Phoenix City Council Doesn’t Stop Gizette Knight

The Phoenix City Council rejected a proposal for a Black Lives Matter Mural in downtown Phoenix. But Gizette Knight says this is not the end.

569
Photo by Josh Olalde on Unsplash

Community organizer Gizette Knight, CEO of Reality Dreams LLC, is not giving up on the Phoenix City Council's rejection of the Black Lives Matter mural.

Keep Reading... Show less

For me, chai isn't just what I drink — it's a core part of who I am. Sure, I'll switch it up every now and then with a cup of English Breakfast, Earl Grey, rose, or Darjeeling, but I always come back to chai.

Nearly every tea lover has one tea they repeatedly drink and go back to, whether it's a daily morning ritual or an afternoon pick-me-up. One of my good friends has almost eight cups of jasmine tea every single day — she drinks more tea than water, actually.

Keep Reading... Show less

In a world where physical contact is a liability, the ease of slipping into despair and isolation has never been so tempting. Perhaps the greatest kindness we can lend to one another is reaching out to the people that meant something to us before everything changed. Here's why you should message your friend today.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments