Learn another language

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com, or follow me on Twitter.

I am trying to learn Polish, so I resonate with this:

Aside from the stupidity of this view, which seems to assume that all international travel and immigration to and from the UK will cease as soon as the Brexit drawbridge goes up, there is also the fact that having another language is never useless. As a Welsh speaker I have encountered a fair amount of linguistic ignorance: people saying that Welsh is pointless because it is a minority language that is rarely spoken outside Wales. I always tell them that speaking Welsh is what enabled me to become fluent in French after moving there when I was 18. Learning one language makes it easier to acquire others (the jump to Italian was less intimidating once I knew another romance language); you gain an understanding of linguistic structures and rules, of tenses and quirks and etymology. And your brain just seems to pick things up more quickly, though the crossed wires that can ensue can be amusing as a baffled look causes you to realise that you are not speaking the language you thought you were.

The spectre of imperialism is undoubtedly a factor in the number of British people who can’t speak another foreign language: some research has put it at a depressing 61%. We’ve all encountered those people on holiday who assume that everyone speaks English, who don’t even bother to learn the words for “hello” and “please”. I can’t relate to this misplaced sense of cultural superiority at all. But what I can relate to is the embarrassment that you have to face when learning a language. There’s even a phrase for it in Japanese: yoko meshi, meaning the particular stress that comes from speaking a foreign language. Literally translated, it means “a meal eaten sideways” – Japanese is usually written vertically (if, like me, you find this interesting, you should definitely pursue a foreign language).

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