7 Reasons to Learn a Foreign Language
I think it's beyond wise for people to have an extra language in their hip pocket - available for immediate use if necessary.
For example, I was encouraged to learn German many years ago - a relatively hard language to master - but I'm glad I did, because I've used it in some interesting situations over the years. I have a small vocabulary, and very thick American accent when speaking the language, but I can hold a conversation if hard pressed.
If you're interested, here are 7 instances in which an ability to wield another tongue can be useful:
1 "Learn" German (Deutsch, not Dutch). English and German were literally the same language a thousand years ago. All you have to do to learn to speak and understand German is to imagine the previous sentence - fly to Germany - sit down in a Bier tent - and after a few very strong albeit tasty beers (you were forewarned) - join the discussion.
OK. Maybe it's not that easy, but that's how I learned most of my German language skills - coupled with a small amount of basic formal instruction in the 80s. A smattering of German spoken and understood will get you far in a number of places around the globe, to include in tourist areas, Germantowns, and around military bases within the United States (German spouses, aye).
2 Or maybe learn Español. Visit the Caribbean or some other cool locale and fit right in. I've noticed often that if I had spoke Spanish (which I am learning) during visits to, um, Spanish-speaking countries - I could have experienced much better customer service on certain occasions.
3 Impress people at parties. You can pull a William Wallace (Braveheart) at a party while participating in a foreign language conversation. This is so impressive that when men do it, women have a tendency to swoon. Alternately, when women do it, men go gaga because men like women with accents.
4 Have your own 13th Warrior moment. This actually works:
- "Sit around a campfire" after having heard a foreign language spoken to you over a period of time - especially while trying to communicate (while trying to listen in, like Antonio Banderas did at the campfire scene in the movie).
- Suddenly, the foreign language becomes intelligible and presto! - and you can understand your quasi-captors' every word.
I had this happen to me at some point in time during the 80s while stationed in Germany - although in much slower motion than in the movie - and it was most likely also because (as noted above) English and German have many words that are essentially the same (plus, a lot of Latin words that are exactly the same, just pronounced differently).
The same thing happened once again with the Dutch language in the 1990s: I was in a Danube cruise ship restaurant in Budapest and my Hungarian tour guide, very nice lady that she is (she speaks Dutch and a bunch of other European languages) - related to me that when the Dutch language is spoken, it sounds like drunken English sailor trying to speak German. There were Hollanders in the restaurant speaking Dutch, and as soon as she told me that - I could understand their words.
If you've ever heard Dutch spoken, you'll scratch your head, because it is a very different language. My 13th Warrior moment in the bar could have also been a product of the restaurant atmosphere - or the fact that the three languages - English, German, and Dutch - are all Germanic languages.
(I had another 13th Warrior moment recently while re-watching the movie for the umpteenth time, as I could actually understand the "Norsemen" as they spoke Norse - which is yet another North Germanic language.)
5 Put it on your resume. The U.S. military actually pays cash (extra money in the old paycheck) to people who speak two or more languages. Regardless, the ability to speak second and third languages looks good on your resume and can assist if you are looking for international employment.
6 Set the example. I know a few people who had the foresight to raise their children while speaking two mother tongues - which means the kids can later easily blend into a number of very different societies.
7 Horizon expander. If the world ever ends, you can go to a foreign country and, um, hide - if you have a smattering of one or two foreign languages.
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