6 Reasons why you Shouldn't Learn a New Language

When people learn that I can speak two languages, they become very interested in learning about how and why. I would wager that other than xenophobes, there aren't a lot of people who would say they don't want to be able to speak at least more than their own language. There are many, many reasons to learn another language. However, what if I told you there were reasons to not learn another language?

That's right. After having devoted the better part of the last few years of my life to learning Spanish, I can honestly say that I have loved every minute. But language learning is definitely not for everyone, and here are six reasons why.

Just don't drink it
Just don't drink it

6. Your brain is literally re-wired.

How could this possibly be such a bad thing? You know those people that say learning another language makes you smarter because it does something to your brain? Those same people forget to admit that during the rewiring process, your brain becomes something akin to that brown jar of golden liquid in the back of your refrigerator.

It's just like anything else that is under construction. You're sure looking forward to that day when you take a step back and look at your brand new house, but how much does it suck to have to take showers out of a five gallon bucket?

Your brain works in the same way. While you're learning new ways to express yourself and how to not only speak but listen and hear your target language, your old language begins to suffer. Don't believe me? I am constantly trying to hold a conversation in English, and either I have bad luck and also developed ADHD, or my mind just isn't recalling simple things as good as it used to.

What? Everyone doesn't have one of these?
What? Everyone doesn't have one of these?

5. You now have to remember two, if not more ways to say the same thing.

Probably the most frusterating moment in language learning, is when you're talking in your new language, then you don't know how to say something, but what's worse is you turn to your personal translator and you can't tell them what you want to say in English.

How can you ask someone to help you remember how to say something if you CAN'T EVEN REMEMBER WHAT YOU'RE TRYING TO SAY? This is especially annoying when you have a captive audience. I remember trying to explain to a few Spanish Speakers how welfare works, when it became obvious to me that I could no longer remember how it worked myself. There's not a lot to say about this area. It's something you have to and will experience when you start learning a new language.

Worse than that, there's a difference between every day conversation and specific vocabulary. Medical translators probably have it the worst, because you now have to learn how to say those stupid phrases in yet another language. I work at a home improvement retailer, I don't know how to say drywall in spanish! Then if you're religious, there's also a whole new set of terms there that you have to learn. Which I do recommend starting to go to church in your new language if possible.

4. Your brain literally hurts after long exposure

This is something akin to burnout after studying for a test. Your brain cannot process too much information at once, and once it hits overload it shuts down. I remember when I was first learning piano (yes I'm going to build myself up that much) how I thought it was just so cool when I could play a song where people would recognize it. So I played it and played it over again. But you just have to give it a rest sometimes.

You will notice this if you ever go to any event where you will hear lectures or discourses in your new language. At first it's exciting to see how much you can comprehend but after awhile, you notice you cannot pay attention any longer. Or, and check this out, say you have a boyfriend/girlfriend whose family speaks the target language. This will happen to you when you go to that big family reunion where they all want to meet you and find out your life history.

3. The people aren't as friendly as you think

For some reason, there is this idea that people will be extremely friendly to you just because you can speak to them in their native language. While this is true in some instances, it is also equally as many times not true. I was kind of spoiled because I already knew a lot of Spanish speaking people and they just let me into their lives. But I have tried to speak to some Spanish people in day to day life, and they get expasperated with you if you can't keep up with them. And let me tell you, there are some people who try their best to make you feel like you don't speak their language, no matter how advanced you are. I know someone who has been speaking Spanish for 15 years, speaks better than most natives, and there are still snobs who try this on him.

I think that TV and Radio personalities do this too. Every once in a while I will turn on Spanish radio and they talk so stinkin' fast! I can converse with most people pretty easily, but I can't understand hardly any radio, or Puerto Rican people. Oh yeah, that's another thing...

2. Dialects suck!

There are always other dialects that make it seem like yet ANOTHER language. Spanish isn't just Spanish. Puerto Rican Spanish, Cuban Spanish, even Spanish from Spain is quite different. And I'm sure it's the same with other languages. In the interests of Spanish, some people even want you to call it Castellano, or Castillian, because Spanish is such a more specific term.

What happens with dialects is the phrases change, words themselves change, pronounciations change, even the grammatical structure can change. When I talk to Puerto Ricans, they have a nasty habit of letting the last bit of their words trail. Imagine barely understanding what a word means, now you have to insinuate that this word that sounds similar is the same. Remember when I said you have to learn two ways to say something? Imagine three, four, five, even more. Just remember, we do the same thing in English. There's American English, UK English, even English within the US is different. A southerner will talk different from an East Coaster will talk differently than a West Coaster will talk differently than a...

You get the point. Dialects blow.

1. Your friends feel betrayed

You might as well have moved to another country. Suddenly you are spending time with people who are completely different from you and your group of friends. It's enough of a challenge for you to get involved with them, not to mention your friends. Why would they want to go to that party with you when they won't understand anyone?

But this also comes down to something different. If you go through such a big change as your culture, people around you start to feel, "Why is he doing that? Why is that culture better than ours?" Because believe it or not, culture and language go hand in hand. You haven't just taken steps to learn the language, you've also begun to change your culture. Refer back to reason 6, language learning changes who you are as a person.

Don't get me wrong, learning another language will change your life for, the most part, better. There are probably a million reasons why you should learn another language. However, these 6 reasons are just a few of the dark sides that nobody points out.

Click here for a link to a free ebook that will help you accelerate your Spanish Vocabulary Growth.

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Comments 21 comments

tlangefnp profile image

tlangefnp 5 years ago

I work in a Federal Health Care Center and have lots of Spanish speaking patients and have tried hard to learn Spanish (I took French in college) but am not doing well at all - maybe one of these reasons are why? Hmmm---good information that I never knew - Thanks.

flagostomos profile image

flagostomos 5 years ago from Washington, United States Author

Language learning is hard, no matter what. I'm not sure about your personal circumstances, but unless you immerse yourself in Spanish, it's going to be difficult. I would recommend reading "how to learn any language". If you want some more tips, feel free to message me!

Reena J 5 years ago

I agree with some points...But, learning a new language is interesting!

Reena J 5 years ago

I agree with some points...But, learning a new language is interesting!

flagostomos profile image

flagostomos 5 years ago from Washington, United States Author

Oh I agree completely. I wouldn't trade being able to speak Spanish for anything.

MattyLeeP profile image

MattyLeeP 5 years ago from Tucson, AZ

I always struggled with learning a new language, now I don't feel so bad.

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AlienWednesday 5 years ago

Interesting! I am slowing working on learning Spanish and Latin with my children. Now when I flub up in any language, I can now spout off why... if I remember.

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Ghost32 5 years ago

One reason you shouldn't read other people's Hubs: The durned things sometimes make you THINK--a dangerous side effect indeed. In this case, I started mentally responding to your points. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, that means you got me hooked, i.e. "engaged"; I get it.)

1. I've never worried overmuch about having friends anyway, so that one's a non-impact item.

2. Dialects...well, I doubt I'd notice the difference. Most likely just put it down to hearing loss after firing that .357 Mag close to the ground at target practice without hearing protection....

3. People friendly? Heck, I never figured they were. Just wanna know when I'm being insulted so I can smile sweetly as if I'm totally ignorant while plotting revenge.

4. Brain pain? Huh! I've got me an automatic mental overload shutdown valve with a Lifetime Warranty; got THAT one covered.

5. Multiple ways to say the same thing? Big deal! I can count to ONE in English, Spanish, German, Japanese, and....

6. Showers out of a 5 gallon bucket? Been doing that (literally) for the past 2.5 years, since we started homesteading and ran out of money before we ran out of plumbing projects.

So, hey, no excuses there for me! And I'm proud to say, I can say, "My wife is a pretty white woman" in Cheyenne, which sounds something like "Nah-mih-ao-pivuh-veho-uh".

There is a problem, though. She's 1/4 Choctaw, and I only know the term for WHITE woman.

Oh well....

flagostomos profile image

flagostomos 5 years ago from Washington, United States Author

@mattyleep: Glad I could help!

@alienwednesday: You don't even count because you're some sort of genius if you're learning Latin!

@ghost32: You're one of the most genuinely funny persons I've ever had the pleasure of hearing from. I continue to enjoy reading your hubs!

Thanks for all the comments everyone!

Steven 4 years ago

The thinking and apparent reasons you have given for not learning a new language are somewhat immature!

flagostomos profile image

flagostomos 4 years ago from Washington, United States Author

It's meant to be satirical my friend. If you read my other hubs you would realize that I love learning languages, and Spanish has been an absolute blessing in my life. However, there are a few things that kind of stink about learning a new language, and I decided to take a look at them in a humorist manner. :)

Kongming 3 years ago

6. Your brain is literally re-wired.

Indeed, you're the first person I've seen mention this. I've had the same issue in learning Chinese. It's hurt my concentration, my listening ability and general comprehension has taken a hit. Honestly, sometimes I worry it'll stupify me permanently.

Even though I've had tons of exposure and have a large vocabulary in Chinese now, I still feel, shall we say, 'spaced out' a lot of the time and have to read or hear something several times to comprehend it. Same deal with English.

Although, this could be to do with the fact that I learned so much of it in a very short time and went for full time exposure (even when I barely knew the language, I kept up an immersive environment almost all the time).

Maybe I just need a long break, I dunno.

3. The people aren't as friendly as you think

That's also been a barrier for me. One thing I was pretty disappointed about the more I learned Chinese, the more I realized how much racism and maliciousness towards non-Chinese there is over there. Plus countless government-pushed propaganda encouraging this racism. Although I'm largely over it now (one thing I've discovered in the learning process, is no matter where you live, what race, what language, most people are morons), I still sometimes feel a little conflicted about my relationship with Chinese, as many things such as the ridiculously strict censorship, propaganda and general petty-mindedness among much of the populace sometimes makes me think I'd be happier abandoning the language altogether.

2. Dialects suck!

You're telling me, China has by far the largest amount of dialects, and as most people in China speak their own dialect among eachother, many aren't particularly good speakers of the national language. Then there's issues like Taiwanese Mandarin being considerably different from Mainland Mandarin with a lot of influence from the local dialect, plus the fact that the Beijing dialect of Mandarin, which is not at all standard, is widespread in Chinese media - largely because Standard Mandarin was based on the Beijing dialect, many Beijingers have the mistaken impression that what they speak is the official standard... ai, it's complicated.

1. Your friends feel betrayed

This right here was my biggest barrier in learning Chinese. You wouldn't believe the intolerance towards different cultures in Britain. They all look at me like I'm a psychopath when they see me watching anything asian for the first time.

The main obstacle, however, was my brother, who was the opposite extreme - he worshipped asians and felt a lot of jealousy upon finding out I was learning Chinese, and would often try to sabotage my immersive environment. I eventually encouraged him to learn Korean to get him off my back, but he soon became discouraged and took it out on me. To this day, he gets angry not only when I say anything related to China, but even if I tell him about something I've read that is no way related to China, because he assumes it is a Chinese source.

He can't even see a Chinese person on TV without making a petty remark.

Ai, sometimes I think this language learning business just isn't worth the bother. =-p

flagostomos profile image

flagostomos 3 years ago from Washington, United States Author

Man chinese... props to you I had a hard enough time with Spanish.

luky 3 years ago

this article is just so negative, I can believe i spent time reading opinions from someone who is too lazy to learn well a new language.

flagostomos profile image

flagostomos 3 years ago from Washington, United States Author

Ah so you admit to reading it! Please read my other horrible hubs and comment on them too :)

asdf 3 years ago

sounds like ur dumb

flagostomos profile image

flagostomos 3 years ago from Washington, United States Author

Why yes I am, thanks!

joenate 3 years ago

thank you, I was assigned this topic for a debate and this was the only thing that came up on google. Thanks for the info.

DAS 3 years ago

I haven't seen the brain rewiring thing mentioned before but it's how I feel too. Devoting so much time, focus and concentration on saying something simple or the bare bone mechanics of how to say something (something that you wouldn't spend an ounce of effort to say in your native language) seems to make you think at a lower level. Now I've found I understand (or at least think about) to a greater degree why I feel things or how I reach conclusions on small matters... Or why I react in a certain way, but frankly this knowledge is useless. It's more or less real time justification of your opinions, justification that you'll always agree with to some degree because it's why your brain churned out whatever it did in the first place.

At the price of this... self-awareness I've lost some of my ability to discuss greater concepts, to use specific word choice or to phrase an idea in a way that the listener will understand it the way I understand it (direct translations of a language are still limited to an extent... It's one reason why people are constantly throwning out "y'know?"s and its equivalents y'know?). Essentially I've lost some of my higher level language skills. All this focus on just being able to say something destroys a little of your word choice, and your ability to put some voice into your native language, or at least that's been my experience.

That said no one seems to talk about this. I feel the main reason this isn't discussed a lot is because it will mostly effect late learners of a language who won't want to mention it because it might make them sound stupid or who don't want to think about it because it's painful to realize you've sweat and bled for something that might be more negative then positive (but there's clearly positives and if you stuck through it you probably enjoyed learning it as well so there's that).

On the other hand I don't think this troubles people who learn a second language early in life (the earlier the better). I was in immersion for another language and there was a clear split in how well spoken the immersion and non-immersion students spoke in their primary language in my school (immersion were far better/quicker generally). I think because when you are a child and you already have to devote time to thinking about grammar or spelling or the way things work at a base level in your own language (including mass rote memorization of things like vocab and nonsensical exceptions), that doing so with another language isn't harmful, it's helpful.

I imagine it's even better being raised in a household that speaks two languages. You're basically just thinking more about the same ideas, evens if the thoughts are being had in a foreign language. And because at this age you're in the right mindset already and your brain is exceptionally flexible this is probably the reason you have 8 year old kids near fluent in multiple languages... They're geared towards learning a language from the ground up.

When you go to learn a language as an adult (any language you start above 11-12 years old realistically) you're taking a big step backwards in a sense. You're spending extra time on things that you no longer need to think about, things that you have had a set of shortcuts for for years or an understanding deep enough that conscious thought is totally unnecessary... Essentially you're transitioning to non-fluency by putting the focus on the lower level of a language instead of broad ideas, tone, etc. When you start thinking in detail about how to structure a sentence or how to say something basic you're taking a step back from fluency. You're asking for more or less old functionality back from your brain, and what you focus your brain on heavily determines at what level you're thinking everywhere else.

My recommendation, and what's helped me (though I still feel pretty dumb in my native language now) to anyone looking at this post feeling the same way is simply pleasure reading. I'm not talking about reading the most advanced books or things full of purple prose or frequent six syllable words. Just read something at or a little higher than the level of writing you felt you used to have. Don't pay attention to why certain words were chosen or how a sentence is structured because you're not trying to learn rules anymore. Basically you're learning through osmosis.

Read stuff that keeps you interested and focused (this way you'll pick up the writing style easier) and don't think about the writing itself. Concentrate on the story, characters and to a lesser degree the imagery and don't think about the mechanics unless the author is doing something very interesting with them. I'm not a good writer, but the level of proficiency I do have I attribute to reading what I enjoy reading.

And It's also how I got back to feeling (almost) acceptable in my own head after learning a third language.

Oh and shame on all the idiots saying you lack the discipline to learn another language. Even the tiniest ounce of effort (or hell just reading the first paragraph or two) makes it clear how unfounded such a strangely personal attack that is. Fucking srs bsn I guess.

Sorry for the walls but I consider this topic something worth mentioning that doesn't come up enough. Also excuse the poor writing... blame it on a lack of editing and the inconvenience of typing with a phone. Thanks for the interesting post.


Kongming 3 years ago

"I feel the main reason this isn't discussed a lot is because it will mostly effect late learners of a language who won't want to mention it because it might make them sound stupid or who don't want to think about it because it's painful to realize"

YES. It's something most people aren't even willing to consider. People like to think in black and white, 'I'm learning so I must be getting smarter'

This is the only article I've read that suggests there are actually negative sides to it.

The suggestion you've provided is a very good one. This has probably been my biggest issue with Chinese - always fixating on the mechanics, to the point that the structure of a sentence takes priority over the actual content.

This is a little harder to get over with Chinese because of the nature of the characters. Though vocabulary-wise I'm pretty much fluent now, I have trouble reading the characters fluidly a lot of the time. I fixate on how I should read characters rather than actually reading them.

You use your eyes differently when you read Chinese characters. I can't explain it.

One thing worthy of note is I generally found my reading notably improved after distancing myself from the language for a few days. It seems the brain needs a time out every now and then to make sense of everything.

I wish more people would discuss this issue. It seems to me this is somewhat of a taboo subject as people are afraid it will demotivate learners. We won't get answers unless we discuss it.

I'm not crazy! 3 years ago

I've noticed the thing with "brain rewiring" as well! I had a collegiate reading level when I was about 10, and almost maxed out the English and Reading sections on the ACT, but after immersing myself in Latin American Spanish, I feel a thousand times dumber than before. My thoughts feel horribly tedious, rudimentary and stupid. All I see are details now, and I used to be a pretty abstract person.

Strangely, I've noticed that with some languages, such as Greek, I am completely able to study it for a decent period of time and not feel the same brain drain. I suspect it's because Greek is extremely analytical (I don't mean that in the linguistic sense)/logical, or at least feels that way to my mind.

I have definitely had times where it felt like my mind had "sewn back up", and I was less insane and able to think abstractly again. When that happened, the Spanish just became instinctive.

I think if your mind can eventually retrain itself back to its old state, you'll realize that the language training was worth the suffering. But yes, I felt very different, and hadn't heard anyone mention that before I read this blog post.

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