“Why should I learn a language even if I never plan on visiting a place that speaks that language?”

It’s a simple and innocent question. But one that got me thinking.

I’ve been studying French for 11 years and I’ve never been to France. Here’s why I bother:

I bother because learning a foreign language changes you. For the better.
I don’t mean learning how to say hello in a language. I mean learning a language: getting to a point where you no longer translate from your native language-you’re able to digest news reports and literature, engage in conversations about abstract topics and form profound thoughts in that language.

That’s when you change.

So much of who we are is based on how we express ourselves and the thoughts we form. When the language in which we think and express ourselves changes, so do we. We learn to think differently and to listen differently. We grow.

Some people look to music or art as forms of self-expression. Others, more literally, look to foreign languages for self-expression. A song may speak to you. A painting might speak to him. The French language speaks to me. And that’s why I bother.

The key is to stick with it. Artists have to learn techniques before they can use their art to communicate. Musicians have to learn to play before they can use music to communicate. We have to learn vocabulary and grammar rules before we can use another language to communicate. But you will get there. And getting there is half the fun.

It’s all about the journey of learning a foreign language, not the destination where you’ll speak it.

P.S. Don’t worry. I’m finally planning a trip to France this year.

Tagged with →  
Share →

7 Responses to Learning a foreign language: why bother?

  1. Siraj says:

    Rachel, Very nice thoughts. I liked your suggestion on sticking with the target language to reach the point of enjoying it. Very true. I am learning French as well – can you post about the useful resources that you have come across in your 11 years of learning French?

    • Thanks, Siraj and I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! A suggestion I always try to share is to do everything you love to do–but do it in the language you’re trying to learn. For example, I love stand-up comedy so I started watching Francophone comedians. What do you love to do and can you find a way to incorporate a foreign language into it?

  2. Marv says:

    Good comments

  3. Karen says:

    Intriguing and well-written words. Thanks!

  4. [...] I explained why I bother learning a foreign language. Now let’s hear from [...]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>