Saturday, 3 April 2010

I Love Languages

I can't really imagine what it's like not to speak more than language. I think everyone I know does. Maybe that's just a sign of the times. People are not so rooted in one place anymore, they go abroad to study, they have foreign friends. Increasingly, people are forced to leave their country to find jobs elsewhere, so of course they need to be able to speak the language.

For me, it wasn't really a choice. I grew up bi-lingually, and then we moved to Holland, where I went to an international school. So mono-lingualism wasn't really an option. But as far as I'm concerned, learning languages isn't really a chore. I don't think there was ever any time in my life when I wasn't busy learning a language -not always successfullly!
Languages I started and then gave up on: Japanese, Russian, Old Norse, Turkish, Norwegian, Arabic, Ancient Greek, Bahasa Indonesia.....oh dear!

Still, it was fun, and not just that. Learning languages - and this is more than a truism - helps you appreciate that cultures are really very different.

Think of the word 'Bread'



These aren't just different WORDS arethey? They are a porthole into a different culture - how people live, eat, imagine food, what they eat with 'bread' (couldn't have a ploughmans with that cholla, could you?).

I'm quite curious to hear what your experiences are with languages? Do youl like learning them? Do you speak them when abroad? What was your first reaction when you first encountered the adventure of a foreign word? Please let me know... I'd love to hear your views!


  1. I have found that learning a foreign language a very ‘un-English’ thing to do. Many of use Brits do not desire to learn another language as it is assumed (wrongly) that everyone else speaks English. Learning the languages is about respecting cultures and showing some humility and effort to try and fit in. When I have been to Germany and Netherlands/Belgium I have felt that my (poor) efforts of German and Duch have been appreciated by those I am speaking to.

    I love learning languages... However I had a French teacher at school who almost put me off (I still to this day will refuse to speak French unless in an emergency!)
    I had a fantastic Spanish teacher how made learning languages very easy, or at least showed me that I had a passion or brain for learning that kind of thing...

    However (on a very silly, cult-ish note) my passion for Eurovision means I can sing in almost every European language XD I can dissect the lyrics and find interesting words and phrases and strange turns of phrase.
    I am still unsure how this strange talent will ever come in useful, bit it may do...!

  2. How funny that's exactly how I learn languages,Ann! I can also sing cheesy songs in quite a few! It's a great way to ease yourself in, think it should be adopted by schools!

  3. great post, Margit. I find languages slippery things, meaning sliding around all over the shop even in one's own mother tongue. And then shifting to another language, with all the complexities of meaning, driven by region, history, slang...the list is I guess endless. But without language, no cultural understanding, or not even the beginning of an understanding. I love reading Montaigne, but only in the original - which is tough, as it's a bit of a slog reading 16th century French. But the English translation is so dull, so flat....let's hope that the love of languages is fostered and flourishes, vive la langue, vive la difference!

  4. French and German at school, to a reasonable level, now sadly lapsed. Italian in courses over the years, still mildly serviceable. Russian when I lived there for a year - from scratch to a good conversational level, now back to scratch. I found Russian was the one that disappeared the quickest through lack of use, partly because I learnt it quicker than the others, but also possibly because it was less familiar. Always interesting to read your posts, Margit. Thanks.

  5. Margit
    I love to learn languages I am frustrated with myself for letting them lapse so much.. I met a drop dead gorgeous boy/man when I was 18 from Heidelberg and I bought a book "Teach yourself German in 3 months" and studied it and wrote to him for two years. I still have some of it in my brain as my son is studying German and I have been able to help a little. I adore Spanish again same book different man :) then I moved there for five years and became quite fluent.
    Again it has lapsed badly but it returns when there.
    My sons are starting to learn it next year I am going to study with them. I hate not being able to understand and converse.. Great Post all the bread is making me hungry .. again xxx

  6. I also love languages. I was born speaking Russian but we soon left for America so I was bilingual pretty much off the bat. Whereas a lot of my friends who moved at the same age as me forgot their Russian, I'm still pretty fluent, i think, because I have a knack for languages. In college, I took and learned modern Hebrew and am pretty fluent in that, and started auditing Arabic classes but then graduated. If I had a chance, I'd definitely learn Arabic and Hindi. In America, as in Britain, it's pretty unusual/weird to be interested and be able to speak more than one language.

  7. It's true, it is unusual for anglophone people to learn other languages ("...heck the whole world speaks English") which of course makes sense if one's only interested in the "I have to make myself understood" aspect of language. But I think we are all true language aficionados here who learn for the love of it...:)

  8. my biggest regret was not properly learning another language, but who knows am feeling inspired, maybe it's not too late......

  9. I wish I was talented in languages. My husband's grandmother told him that every language is another friend (she spoke 5 languages) and this is so true. For me French was my first language which I forgot after switching to English and then to Hebrew.