By Laurianne Sumerset
Isn’t it amazing that they differ in sound, form, and origin but share a single purpose? To build a bond.
Beyond connection, learning new languages is an advantage when you are seeking employment, education, or even leisure in a foreign land. But we may also come across special discoveries that are not just about our cultural explorations but about ourselves. Here are seven life lessons that the journey of learning new languages can teach us:
- Develop self-determination.
You do not have to be a diplomat, a president, or a tycoon to be able to connect with the world. If your dream is to study or work abroad, or if you simply want to travel, you only have to equip yourself with the right resources and skills. In life, you may not have everything but with determination, you can build your own bridge to the world.
- Master the basics first.
To become a master, know the primary details of the craft first. Learning a new language is like nurturing your career and relationships: you build everything from the ground up. Know the greetings, common questions and daily expressions first before you construct long, telling sentences. You can start by reading a dictionary, using computer-based language learning tools, or attending language classes.
- Sincere practice makes perfect.
Let’s quote Gary Marcus, an N.Y.U. professor, psychologist, and author of Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning, who said that “repeating what you already know is not necessarily the same as efficiently reaching a new level.” When you’re learning something new, like another language, practice not just because you need it but because you want to know it by heart and become better at it.
- Respect beats differences.
There are words that sound good to others but are offensive to you, and vice versa. Differences, from culture to religion, are natural, but harmony is possible if we know how to respect how others live with their choices.
- Take risks.
Dealing with something unfamiliar, like a new place, career change, or a foreign language, is scary. But how would you know that a path is for you if you don’t take a step?
- Listening is a key to success.
One way to be familiar with foreign expressions is to observe gestures and to listen to pronunciation. In life, listening to a client, an editor, or a friend means removing distractions and biases first to fully understand the other person. This will allow you to learn more and see things in someone else’s perspective.
- Mistakes make you better.
When you were learning to ride a bike, you fell off many times. That is the natural sequence when you’re learning something new. If you talk to foreigners for the first time using their language, you’d surely miss a word or intonation. But you’ll learn from that and do better next time because you are a masterpiece of never-ending yet beautiful revisions.
Laurianne Sumerset is an avid traveler who loves learning languages. She’s currently based in Thailand, where she works as an English teacher while studying for a PhD in Linguistics at Chulonglakorn University. In her spare time she reviews online language courses and software for her website, languagesoftware.net. You can read her review of the Living Language Online courses here.