„So, why do you like learning languages?“
People ask this quite a bit. And as with all things that are just so much a part of what you are, the answer is actually not that easy. „Well, because I really do love it.“ woult be honest and short, but not very helpful or precise. For there are indeed a few things about learning a language that I find interesting and important.
Learning a language is not just about rules, grammar and spelling. In fact, some might say, these things are not that important. I tend to disagree, at least partially: proper grammar and spelling, while certainly not necessary for basic understanding, are beautiful. But I digress… for learning a language is really about so much more than that. Learning a language is not just learning words and grammar rules, it’s getting to know – getting to understand – , the culture and mentality that stands behind these rules and words. „We speak the same language“ is a phrase often used to express consensus. And quite rightly so: Learning a language will allow you to understand the people that speak it in more ways than just linguistically. When I speak Italian, I become just a bit more Italian myself. When I speak Englusg, I’m just a bit more English. And isn’t that just a wonderful thing?
One observation I have frequently made is the following: The people who insist most on their native language being used in their country („Wir sind hier in Deutschland, hier wird gefälligst Deutsch gesprochen“) are those who least use the native language when they travel abroad („Mach mal Bier, aber zackig“, somewhere in Spain or perhaps Italy). I am sure I don’t need to point out how pathetic that kind of behaviour really is…
Finally, I’ve found learning languages keeps your mind trained and flexible. And if you also teach, it gets even better. You see, usually you don’t think that much about your own native language(s). And then someone asks you: „But why do you do this?“ in regard of some grammar issue. And you begin with „Well, because…“, then stop, and slowly admit: „Well, I’ve got no idea, really. It’s just how we do it.“ Hopefully followed by the attempt to find out about another intricate detail of your native language(s) you weren’t even aware of before. At least to me, that is a thing that alone would be worth everything.