Learning a foreign language: why bother?

March 5, 2012 / by Rachel Reardon

“Why should I learn a language even if I never plan on visiting a place that speaks that language?”

It’s a simple and innocent question. But one that got me thinking.

I’ve been studying French for 11 years and I’ve never been to France. Here’s why I bother:

I bother because learning a foreign language changes you. For the better.
I don’t mean learning how to say hello in a language. I mean learning a language: getting to a point where you no longer translate from your native language-you’re able to digest news reports and literature, engage in conversations about abstract topics and form profound thoughts in that language.

That’s when you change.

So much of who we are is based on how we express ourselves and the thoughts we form. When the language in which we think and express ourselves changes, so do we. We learn to think differently and to listen differently. We grow.

Some people look to music or art as forms of self-expression. Others, more literally, look to foreign languages for self-expression. A song may speak to you. A painting might speak to him. The French language speaks to me. And that’s why I bother.

The key is to stick with it. Artists have to learn techniques before they can use their art to communicate. Musicians have to learn to play before they can use music to communicate. We have to learn vocabulary and grammar rules before we can use another language to communicate. But you will get there. And getting there is half the fun.

It’s all about the journey of learning a foreign language, not the destination where you’ll speak it.

P.S. Don’t worry. I’m finally planning a trip to France this year.

Topics: Language Learning and Culture

Rachel Reardon

Written by Rachel Reardon

Rachel works with some of the coolest marketers, designers, and writers around to help Mango look and sound its best. She loves bold colors, old books, the Montréal metro, and Star Trek. She has conflicting feelings about the Oxford comma.

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