| the best reminders in life to study languages

Saturday, 29 November 2014


Like anything in life that you have to study in depth for a long period of time, it is inevitable to experience moments of exhaustion and boredom. It's so easy to envisage throwing in the towel with it all and doing something more fun which requires much less effort. Recently I've really not enjoyed studying languages, I've had lots of small assignments and presentations due and to be honest I just can't wait for Christmas to roll around. But sometimes life throws you little reminders that bring everything back into focus, why you've stuck with something for so long, and most importantly that tells you not to quit yet.

Serving customers in their language
Nothing brings a smile to my face more than this. The sheer joy of communicating with someone in their language, followed normally by a look of delight when they discover you can sustain a conversation longer than "Bonjour, je m'appelle Fiona..". If anything this is a sad characteristic associated with British people - that we are profoundly backward compared to our European counterparts in language learning. When a native of that language is encouraging and impressed with my ability it always reminds me exactly why I've always wanted to take French and Spanish beyond school - to connect with people from other cultures regardless of nationalities. That you can have a laugh and cross cultural boundaries through learning their language is a truly brilliant perk. It also removes the academic pressure of speaking in a sophisticated fashion, you're free to just chat away, and if anything I believe this reveals the amount you've actually learnt because of the amount you can relate to a native speaker in a cultural context.

Getting excited about parts of a song in another language that you can speak
The best example of this is Pitbulls' (I know, stay with me here) "Don't Stop The Party". I get SO excited about the line in the chorus which is "Y no pare la fiesta" which is the title of the song in Spanish. I can still sing that while happy in a club after a few drinks which I consider a huge achievement. I guess I love being able to use my knowledge of language in parts of my everyday life. I'm also a big grammar geek and I get excited because "pare" is in the subjunctive mood, and yeah I'll just stop there..

Eavesdropping on people's conversations when they don't expect it
This is one of my favourite hobbies, especially abroad, mainly because it is plain obvious that you're a tourist and most will assume you can't speak the language, but also because I'm a nosey individual and I love getting an insight into other people's lives through little snippets of conversation. I've found one of the best places to do this is in London, purely because of the huge amount of tourists it attracts every day. I find that hearing anyone speaking in another language makes my ears prick up because I want to know what they're talking about and it frustrates not being able to decode it!

So here's a few things that remind me exactly why I've wanted to study languages since sixth form, and at the core is the wanting to communicate and meet new people. Speaking another language opens up a million more opportunities to build relationships, and the desire to travel and meet new people is so exciting! Especially with my year abroad looming in the coming year.

Thanks for reading! What things help to remind you why you enjoy doing something that takes work?

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