"Why on earth do you waste your time learning so many languages
when the entire world is speaking English?"
Me: "Ughh, here it goes again..."
I get asked this question over and over again by people who are still not convinced about why I learn languages such as Greek or Norwegian, or better yet, why I spend my time on learning languages at all. So why don't I stick to English and forget about other languages?
Hmm.. you might be right about that after all.
But what if I tell you that my life has entirely changed ever since I jumped into the great realm of languages?
Let me outline to you 3 of the most rewarding things that languages have brought to my life:
Languages have boosted my self-confidence, believe it or not. I used to be very shy at school, and had a pretty hard time engaging in the most basic conversations with the students in my class. I was constantly underestimating myself by feeding my brain with thoughts like "I can't do anything, I'm useless", "people at school don't like me because I'm not as cool as they are". But when I first started learning my very first language at the age of 16, which was German, and by the time I got fluent in it (nearly 2 years) and started speaking it regularly with people, this is when the whole difference was made. What seemed to me impossible is now in the palm of my hand. The burning desire of me wanting to speak German has finally become part of my reality, of what I am.
Working towards my goal and achieving it made me believe that I can actually do great things, and that I'm not this reserved and unaccomplished person I thought I was. For the most part, it has made me believe in myself, and in the things that I could be doing in life. At that time, I noticed a huge shift in my attitude; I became more of an outgoing person, I started having more friends, engaged in conversations with more ease, etc... Even my mindset started attracting more positive thoughts such as "If I can do this, then I can do that", "Nothing is impossible if I put enough time, energy, and passion into it".
This was the first turning point in my life.
My knowledge in languages was growing deeper and deeper one language after the other. The more I delved into a language, the more bewildered I remained by its vastness and complexity, and the more languages I dealt with, the more I began to acknowledge the immense linguistic and cultural diversity that our world has to offer. And being part of this overwhelming diversity taught me that each and everyone of us is different in a way or another, and that there is no right or wrong way of looking at or thinking of a matter. It is just about us being different and having different perspectives on things. Therefore, I couldn't help myself but feel humbled in front of all this greatness.
Apart from that, the entire process of learning a language itself requires that you stay humble with yourself so that you're able to tolerate much better negative feedback from natives regarding the mistakes you've made, and consequently, learning from these mistakes, and ending up speaking fluently with time.
3- Amazing travel experiences:
Well, I could've travelled as well here and there speaking only in English, and interacting on a touristic level, right??
But the entire experience differs when you speak the local language. Not only will you get around much easier in the place you're visiting, but you'll also have a very enjoyable stay, by meeting local people, speaking their language (You don't have to be fluent by the way), and making a good impression on them.
I remember for instance when I was staying at a hostel in Oslo back in July 2016. I was comfortably lying on a couch in the lobby when a guy, who was sitting on an armchair facing me, started babbling something in Romanian about his phone not working properly. As he was getting furious about it, I decided to get up and go see if I can offer him any help.
So I stood right in front of him, and asked him very hesitantly in Romanian:
"Care este problema, domnule?"
(What is the problem, sir?)
He then looked at me surprised of my Romanian, and responded:
"Nu stiu cum sa activez noul meu SIM card! Toate instructunile sunt scrise in limba engleza. Nu inteleg nimic!"
(I don't know how to activate my new SIM card! All the instructions are written in English. I don't get a thing!)
At that point, I approached my hand close to where his phone was and suggested:
"Lasa-ma sa-ti vad telefonul tau. Cred ca te pot ajuta cu asta"
(Let me have a look at your phone. I think I can help you with that)
He then handed me his phone, I followed the instructions in English written on a manual he had, and ended up activating his new SIM card.
"Oh, iti multumesc foarte mult, frate!", he said
(Oh, I thank you a lot, brother)
After that, we carried on in a 2-hour conversation, talking about Oslo, his job, the benefits of weed, while using my rusty Romanian. But who cared? We communicated on a different level, and that was very exciting and enriching for me. He even pulled out of his bag a bottle of "Tuica",a well-known Romanian brandy, and poured me two glasses of it.
Andrei was so happy because he's finally found a person he could talk to without the existence of language barriers. I made him feel comfortable, secure, and above all, I drew a wide smile on his face. He felt as if he was not a stranger anymore. This is one of the many examples that show how people open up to you and approach you differently when you speak their mother tongue. To their eyes, not only do you become a friend of theirs, but you get a step closer to their hearts.
"Talk to a man in a language he understands, it goes to his head. Talk to a man in his mother tongue, it goes to his heart."