Languages, there are so many of them around the world. Even within a single language there are a great many variations. It’s not even simply the accents of the people that are different, but the different word uses they have can be misleading.
In Australia I looked after a few kids. Their Mom had bought dessert, so I asked who wanted a jelly doughnut after we finished supper. The four kids gave me a funny look and scrunched their noses, all exclaiming how gross that would be. The oldest boy then looked at package and emphasized the fact they were jam donuts. Jelly or Jell-O is indeed something that would be strange in a doughnut.
Despite a small language barrier between people that speak the same one we can still explain what it is we’re talking about. Between two people that speak different ones it is rather difficult to communicate, there can be quite a bit of pointing to items and repetition of words. No real conversations are able to develop and misunderstandings can happen often.
Growing up I never thought myself unlucky in being able to only speak English, but I now find that I wish I’d have worked harder to learn another.
In school I took French from grade 4 through to grade 12. I was fairly good at the language in my mind. I could follow a conversation. I couldn’t understand every word, but I could comprehend the overall essence of the conversation.
My minimalistic language skills that I had in grade 12 have become nothing more than the ability to now recognize random words. I’m unable to carry on a conversation at all, which is rather disheartening to me. That is, especially when we’re Canadian and we use the fact that our country is bilingual as a separating factor between us and the United States. My cereal box may have two languages on it, but does that really make Canada bilingual?
Currently I’m attempting to teach myself some Russian. In University I came to focus on the relations between the Soviet Union and China in the 1930s, which is a fascinating study. The influence the Soviet Union had among different factions within China and the great changes to China’s governing body at the time are quite interesting to explore, but I digress.
I contemplated going for a Master’s Degree focusing on the Sino-Soviet relations of this time, but I cannot read Chinese characters nor can I read Cyrillic, the Russian alphabet. I would be unable to read primary sources; therefore, I would be unable to holistically study the subject.
I am currently attempting to teach myself Russian at the moment to see where it will take me, but even if it is just on a trip to St. Petersburg I think being able to read a sign or say hello to the locals would be nice.
I think in our now small world learning another language is extremely important. Not only will it help you communicate on vacation it is a major step in understanding other cultures. The best way to travel and learn about others is by speaking to the locals. A majority of the time while on vacation many people will know English, but what if they don’t? How would you get information?
I also think that, for the most part, when visiting another country others appreciate when you attempt to interact with them in their own language. You’re there to experience their culture and language is one of the most important mediums that allow you to do this.
It can be a great challenge for your mind; a good way to exercise the brain, which often finds itself on autopilot when we become caught up in our everyday lives. Learning a language is something useful for travel, study, or simply for a good trick to impress friends during a movie that is set in a foreign location. It is, in my opinion, something we should all attempt to do.