As a person of color living in a multicultural household, I grew up with an early appreciation as well as a fascination for languages, communication, and language acquisition. I would listen in awe as my mother and my grandmother spoke to each other in their Filipino dialect, Kapampangan. I wanted to join in and be part of their dialogue. To understand more than I did. This exposure to culture and language inspired me to listen to traditional folk music, watch Filipino movies and shows, and do anything I could to immerse myself into my family’s culture in an engaging, meaningful way.
This passion was further motivated by my mother’s decision not to formally teach me the national language of Tagalog or her dialect. I knew that even if no one sat down and taught me, that I was still invested in learning all that I could about the culture and the language associated with it. At first, no one in my family took me seriously in part because I was young, and as a Filipino-American child living in the United States, there was the expectation that I would be one disinterested in the culture and language of my parents, and two that English was the only language I could ever possibly need in life.
Studying Kapampangan gave me my first introduction to the world of language study and solidified my close bond with my grandmother on my mother’s side.
Since then, I have also explored learning other languages and the experience has been incredibly impactful, rich, and satisfying, to say the very least. Learning a language has become more than a hobby or a past-time for me. Rather, it has become one of the most joyous experiences I have ever known. Studying other languages has truly enriched my life, allowing me to gain new perspectives and insight into the world around me. Currently, I am in intermediate B1/B2 French, intermediate Kapampangan, beginner Tagalog, and beginner German.
Each day, I dedicate time in my busy life to language study, whether that’s reading news articles, brushing up on my listening skills, writing poems or papers on topics I am interested in, or practicing grammar. Learning a new language can be a wonderfully rewarding experience, which is why I’d like to share with you all some of the benefits associated with studying a new language. Whether your goal is to achieve fluency in a new language, to communicate with individuals when you go on vacation somewhere new, or you are just trying something different for the first time, studying a new language is a truly amazing decision which I hope I can persuade you into considering.
Critical Thinking Skills
Along your journey as a language student, you will no doubt encounter words or phrases that are unfamiliar and perhaps a bit difficult to understand. Oftentimes, using context clues and adopting a new line of thinking is what can help you in these situations. For instance, when I first learned the German articles das, der, and die, I came up with helpful nonsense words which helped me remember when to use each article. Using the made-up word “ling-ich-en-us” I was able to recall which word endings might suggest the use of the article der (the word endings ling, ich, en, and us).
Even if you already have a second or even third language, the experience of mastering a new language can feel different and require you to change your methods up a little bit. Study habits will not be the same between languages. French pronunciation was naturally easier for me than German pronunciation, which meant that I had to challenge myself and find study habits that would help me practice German pronunciation.
This process was exciting for me because I was learning to do something I had never really done before. When learning a new language, success may depend on your ability to think in new ways, promoting critical thinking skills. Before you know it, you will have found unique methods that you personally use to master the language, and these techniques will vary depending on what language you are studying. Benefits of Language Learning | ACTFL
In order to learn a new spoken language, you may have to rely heavily on listening to differentiate between words and determine when one word ends and another begins. This is an excellent way to improve listening skills that is both useful and fun. I first studied French in high school, and although I did exceedingly well in the course and even became my school’s French tutor, I was not exposed to the way French sounded, so when I decided to return to French studying, hearing French out loud was a somewhat new experience.
At first, I could barely keep up with the pace of normal, everyday spoken French, and I was a bit discouraged by this, but by listening to French songs, videos, shows, and films, it was not too long before hearing the language became a little easier. When I was finally able to watch shows without reading French subtitles, I felt such immense pride in myself and what I had achieved.
Language studying can be frustrating at times and there may even be moments when you wonder if you should abandon the study altogether, which is why it is important that you remain focused on achievable, realistic goals. Decide at the beginning of the journey what it is you hope to accomplish and how you will achieve those goals. You can create a goal sheet or use PDF templates online. One of the most popular goal sheets is the SMART goal worksheet.
SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based. The more specific your goal is, the better. This helps you to stay focused and hold yourself accountable. Vague goals are hard to follow through with and can discourage you from continuing. Next, it is important that you document your progress and measure your growth. Seeing the changes in your comprehension, writing skills, or ability to have conversations with other speakers can increase your motivation during the long language journey ahead. So be sure to celebrate your wins!
Documenting your progress also allows you to pinpoint areas that might need more work. Maybe you are fantastic at conjugating verbs, but you have a harder time with a specific tense. Keep track of your progress and you’ll be sure to go far. Achievable goals also encourage perseverance. Choosing goals that can realistically be met prevents drops in motivation, therefore if you are determined to acquire a new language, ensure you define achievable and specific goals. Furthermore, it’s good to ask yourself if your goals are relevant? Examine how your goals are connected to you.
Lastly, ensure you have realistic timelines for all you wish to achieve. Giving yourself too little time to complete your objectives can result in burnout. Using the SMART framework is an excellent way to maintain perseverance throughout the trials of studying a new language. While the process may be long and difficult, continuing on is a great way to practice perseverance.
Learning More about a Different Culture
It is virtually impossible to learn a new language without learning about the culture the language actually comes from. Even if that is possible, I definitely do not recommend it. Learning about the language and its culture provides context, which can actually facilitate learning. If you are studying something just for the sake of it, without asking why and trying to meaningfully engage with the topic or the material, learning can feel harder as well as less exciting.
With the acquisition of a new language, you can read books and watch shows in the language it was originally in, providing a novel experience. Oftentimes when films and books are translated, a lot of culture-specific meaning is lost. Not every phrase can be directly translated, which means meaning is lost or skewed. Karambolage is a fascinating French and German channel on Youtube that provides a lot of informative content about French and German culture.
I have so much fun learning about the country and its heritage in the language itself because it just feels that much more immersive. Plus, learning a new language may just inspire you to travel to the country or region where the language is spoken. 10 Benefits of Learning a Second Language | Lead with Languages
I was very nervous to reach out to people and ask if they wanted to be language partners even though I knew I was capable and that it would be a great experience. Sometimes I forget that language is first and foremost for communication. I get sucked up into the world of grammar and writing, which is all very well and important, that I overlook the need to apply the knowledge and actually speak to another person.
When I finally got over my inhibitions, I found that I was having the loveliest time. The pandemic has made connecting with other people even harder than it can already be. With a lot of people working from home, moving away, or living in different parts of the country or the world, it can feel extremely difficult to meet people and form meaningful connections.
Finding an online language partner is a fun and relatively safe way to make friends and practice language-speaking together. Italki is a super cool app where you can find people from all around the world. There is the option to pay for hourly lessons. The prices range from $8 an hour to $22 depending on the tutor’s experience.
For those who are not interested in paying for tutoring, you can opt to just post in the global community forum your request for a language partner. Be sure to include your level in the language you wish to practice in and any languages in which you are fluent, so that those who would like help in the languages you know, can reach out to you. Some tutors actually use the pay they receive from Italki to join other tutoring lessons. There are a lot of opportunities just on Italki alone. 10 Benefits of Learning a Second Language | Lead with Languages
Becoming More Open-Minded
Because studying a new language exposes you to a new culture, you can gain insight into other perspectives and walks of life, which may encourage you to become more open-minded and accepting of other people, even when you come from such different backgrounds. Language and communication inspire collaboration and compassion. A lot of stereotypes and prejudices find their roots in misinformation and/or a lack of understanding. Studying a new language makes you more aware of the differences between customs and cultures, as well as what unites us. 7 Benefits of Learning A New Language
There is a multitude of good reasons for studying a new language. With a new language so many doors open. You can choose to move somewhere entirely new, or just plan a visit. Learning a new language fosters improved communication skills such as listening and even allows people to become more open-minded and compassionate towards others. It is also an opportunity to connect with other people and make lasting friendships with people who have similar interests and hobbies, who value the importance of language. No matter what your reasons are for studying a new language, I wish you all the best of luck on your journey and I hope you reach your goals. Auf Wiedersehen!
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