What’s the point in learning foreign languages? Communication, sure. But usually if you try hard you can get by without that. Or you can get by with English. I kinda like languages is not about motivation. The “kinda like” part implies that you already have the necessary motivation. But I still want this to be about everything… so I’m going to talk about some less obvious reasons for learning languages apart from communication.
Do languages represent a different way of looking at things?
First, there is this thing called the Saphire-Whorf hypothesis (I should check that for spelling mistakes). Before I carry on, I’ll say that I believe it’s not totally it. Anyway. The hypothesis suggests that languages represent a different view of looking at the world. A famous example (which seems not to be so true after all) is eskimos having some fifty or something words for snow. The problem is that there is not enough data to support the hypothesis. I have heard of research being done showing that people may sometimes recognize colors easier if they distinguish them in their language. I’m just speculating but for example Russians have the word syni for blue and galuboi and that makes them more likely to distinguish between the two colors while the English would just say blue). But… does this really represent a major change? It’s not like you can’t distinguish between those colors just because you don’t have two words for them.
Let’s get aside from research and use a practical analogy. Think about the foreign languages you know. Think about when you speak them. Does it seem to change your thought patterns in a way? Well, to me, it does not. Maybe this has to do with people actually thinking in images and abstract ideas and only then translating them into words. That is an interesting theory in itself. Well, I don’t know.
In conclusion, I’d say there might be some truth to languages shifting our thought patterns a bit. As for me, I don’t think it’s a major change. It might just come as a little bonus. Or it might not.
Languages as a mental exercise
This idea simply suggests that languages and language speaking might be a nice little exercise for your brain. Do you enjoy solving a sudoku? Well, learning languages is just the same. To make matters better, there seems to be scientific evidence to support the idea.
For me, I’d say this is BIG. It might not seem like a huge thing but I somehow tend to enjoy exercises. Also, languages are different from other similar exercises such as solving sudoku puzzles or learning poems because languages are immediately useful. I’m not saying that learning poems can’t serve you in a party or something but statistically speaking I’d say you are more likely to make use of your acquired language knowledge than of the fact that you can cite Shakespeare (I guess it boils down to communication again.) Still I’m not saying you shouldn’t learn Shakespeare. I think a combination of the two is great. These things are simply… different.
Other extrinsic reasons
Another reason for learning languages is the fact that languages are cool. I don’t know how to explain coolness but they are. Languages connect.
Not only languages connect you to people, they connect you to the culture. It might not set a new paradigm in thinking but it simply encourages you to learn more things concerned with the culture and with the way people live or used to live. And knowledge is nice.
In summary, let’s look at what we’ve got. I haven’t tried to convince you that learning languages is good and all. All I did is I have shared some of the reasons why I kinda like languages. There might be other reasons and even reasons that I am not consciously aware of. Yet, these are the things I have come up with, thinking about this.
In reality, I do kinda understand how languages are in some way arbitrary: languages are just things that develop through a lot of random patterns and change and just because they develop in a certain way it doesn’t mean they have to be so. There’s nothing in the word cat that makes it a better word for a cat, than, say, a lod would be to represent the same word. It’s just random. It’s not how it has to be. Yet, it makes it a good exercise. Add to that that languages encourage curiosity. And that they are cool. Period.
- 5 Important Qualities of Good Professional Interpreter
- Changes to I Kinda Like Languages!
- Making The World’s Language
- Do You Use These 3 Simple Language Learning Tips When Being In The Country!
- Rough Greek Overview: Modern Greek From A Learner’s Perspective