When embarking on our language learning journeys, we all generally have a different reason for doing so. As the lover of languages that I am, I would like to imagine that it is the beauty of language that attracts people and makes them decide to try to learn a specific language; to learn about it origins, unique quirks and cultural influences. But I expect that this isn’t always the case. That said there are many great reasons to start learning a language other than just enjoyment; employment prospects and ever personal relationships can also be the stimulus to take up a new language and get the books out or start classes.
Never before have so many people wanted to learn a foreign language, with English being the most popular choice. Though, French, German, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese have also increased in popularity in recent times. The internet has broadened people´s horizons and exposed us all to the big world that in many ways, can only be accessed through the learning of another language. It may well surprise you to know that more than 56% of the world´s population speak more than one language, but the percentage of those who have learned these languages as adults, I expect is significantly lower. So seeing as we are not all lucky enough to grow up speaking more than one language. My question is “why exactly do people decide to learn a foreign language?”
Short term and long term goals
It is quite obvious to say that there are short term and long term goals. Some people see learning a language as a means to an end; to get the job of their dreams or to pass a course of some kind. But from my point of view, it is important to have a clear idea of why you are learning. As many people learn a language just for a short term solution to a particular moment in their lives, they may wish to get it over and done with, therefore they should make sure that they know just how to do this in an organised way that will benefit them the most. There are great courses (HERE) and tutors (HERE) around that can help you with your short term language learning goals. Whereas, there are others who see language as a long term skill that they will need to use consistently and in a deeper way. One thing I will say is that if you wish to achieve full fluency in a language, you should accept that it requires life changes, not just studying every now and then. You ought to use your target language on a daily basis for the rest of your life!
Collaboration and communication
It does, of course, depend on your own personality, but humans are generally quite sociable beings. Being monolingual limits one’s prospects to meet new people and have new experiences. The fact that you wish to make new friends, travel and meet people from different cultures can be a great driving force to make you learn a language. That feeling of being able to converse for the first time in a foreign language is like no other!
Many people learn a language because they need to. This can be because of work, educational requirements or other responsibilities, but I would say that is also a great reason to get studying. Depend on the language that you wish to learn, there are various options when it comes to official exams or ways of learning. I know that in Spain for example, the Cambridge Exam English (HERE) are the most popular, but other countries have differeing options. The most important this is to ask yourself; What type of qualification do I need? Where and how can I get it? What level do I need to achieve?
As I mentioned earlier, I personally love learning languages. If I have the choice between watching the football or learning new German expressions (the language I am currently tackling), I know what I would choose. Remember, learning a language is hard work at times but you can make it entertaining, be consistent and use all the key language skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening), you will notice that through consistency, and your level will improve greatly. Also try mixing it up a bit; listen to music, watch TV, read blogs. The possibilities are endless!
Love or friendship
Let’s face it. Many of us have learnt a language for a girl or even to impress their crush. Language helps to join people and there is nothing that tells you, I love you or value you quite like speaking to someone in their mother tongue.
Change of location and travel
The best way to experience a place is by learning the language to get fully immersed in a culture. You will enjoy travelling far more and you will get more out of it.
If you permanently move away and live in a country whose language is not coincidentally your mother tongue, you better learn the language to enjoy the place. It can also be badly seen by locals if you don´t attempt to learn the loacal language to at least a level that you can get by in. There is a definite correlation between people who speak the language and enjoy living in a new place.
On balance, learning a language can be something amazing if it is done in the right way. The key to mastering a language is motivation, consistency and enjoyment. For this reason all learners should make a clear plan before they begin and include key factors, such as:
- When can I study?
- Where should I begin?
- How can I learn in an effective way?
- Should I sign up to a language school or get a private tutor?
- Where can I find useful material?
- Can I study independently?
- Who can I practice with?
- How long do I want to learn for?
Having said all of that, in my humble opinion, the first question that a learner must ask themselves, WHY DO I WANT TO LEARN THIS LANGUAGE?