Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Pain and Elation of Language Learning

Well, vacation is over.  Back to work.

At the moment, I'd like to talk about language learning in general.  This is foremost on my mind because I'm starting a major push on learning Japanese starting this weekend.  Learning a second language can be very challenging, perhaps one of the most challenging things to learn in the adult world (though Grandpa using the computer is far scarier).  However, it can also be on of the greatest things to learn as well, as it opens an entire new world to you.  And, if done correctly, it can be both fun and exciting from beginning to end.

I've read a lot about learning second languages from both general sites (Fluent in 3 Months, The Yearlyglot) and sites for specific languages (All Japanese All the Time, Japanese Level Up).  All have given me practical information on language learning, and I can only blame myself for not following through. 

One of the first questions a person must ask themselves is which language they want to learn.  This is not an easy questions.  English is the most widely spoken, but what if you are a native speaker?  Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language, but what if you have no interest in it?  Maybe your ancestors spoke the language of a far off place, but what if you aren't that interested in your past?  What if you have no reason at all?

I'll agree that learning a language is far easier if you have a reason to learn it.  Perhaps your company is sending you to China to manage some people there.  Better start learning Chinese.  Or maybe you have a dream of learning the top ten languages of the world (summarized here).  Yes, it's difficult, but not impossible.  Time and effort, in all things.

But what of those who have to answer to why we're learning a language?  If you don't have a reason, then don't worry about it.  Why build a model train with surrounding village in your basement?  Why set up a massive domino line for a few minutes of elation?  Well, why not?  If that's what you want in your life, and you aren't hurting anybody, then why not?

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