One of the most fantastic aspects of our modern world is that there are hundreds of different languages being used on a day to day basis, and even more impressive than that, most people in this world only know one language. So for whatever reason, our world has been created in a way that created invisible barriers between people based on nothing more than what we take for granted every day, the spoken word. Although it keeps us apart at the best of times, it is amazing that our world is over flowing with different cultures and races that all share their own individual ideas, beliefs, and religions, which adds a rich beauty that surrounds our world. In a lot of ways, the hobby of learning languages is a lot more than a simple hobby to kill time. To learn a new language is a relatively simple way of sharing a piece of culture, or even humanity, between two people that could not have communicated otherwise. Sure its easy to say, “Why don’t they learn English?”, but the fact is that they are saying the exact same thing about you and me. Without being proactive in this world, we lose the ability to connect ourselves with people on the other side of the world from us.
The thought of learning a new language is perhaps the most daunting task for anyone to undertake because it is literally incomprehensible. For twenty seven year, I have been speaking English as my primary language, and to start looking at different languages is such a step outside of the box that it challenges you to be something more than just yourself. As a Canadian, I am quite luck because since I began elementary school, I have been forced to participate in courses in the French language because Canada is a bilingual country (IE English and French are the native languages of Canada). Although I hated it growing up, it did open the door for me to be interested in different languages and the interest in wanted to dedicate the time to learn a new language. The absolute fact about learning a new language is that it is very easy because we are social creatures, but the hard part to learning a new language is the dedication and perseverance behind learning a language. With strong dedication and the will to push through the learning curve, it is quite easy to learn a new language.
Why Learn a New Language?
Every year, there are thousands of people trying to learn new languages for every reason under the sun. The truth behind learning a new language is that it is both fascinating and fun to do. Most people choose to learn a new language because they are looking for a way to add something to their lives, and on the other hand, some people choose to learn a new language for reason as simple as work placement or emigration. One very common reason behind learning a language is because your partner, in-laws, relatives, or friends speak a different language. By learning to speak that new language, you will help to communicate with them on a much higher level. It will also give you a better understanding of their culture and way of thinking.
Sometimes your position at work involves regular contact with speakers of foreign languages, and being able to talk to them in their own languages will help you to communicate with them more effectively, plus it garners much respect. This may also help you to make sales and to negotiate and secure contracts. Knowledge of foreign languages may also increase your chances of finding a new job, getting a promotion or a transfer overseas, or of going on foreign business trips. Many English-speaking business people don`t bother to learn other languages because they believe that most of the people they do business with in foreign countries can speak English, and if they don`t speak English, interpreters can be used. The lack of foreign language knowledge puts the English speakers at a disadvantage especially in meetings, for example, when the people on the other side can discuss things amongst themselves in their own language without the English speakers understanding, plus using interpreters slows everything down. This is one of the main reason that Chinese and Japanese are growing in popularity amongst business men because of the amount that these markets import and export to North America.
During higher levels of research, typically post-graduate work at universities, you may find that information about subjects you`re interested in is published mainly in a foreign language. Learning that language will give you access to the material and enable you to communicate with fellow students and researchers in the field. Even during my university career, it was common to study prose in languages such as Greek or Latin based on the time frames that certain items were written. In this case, the languages are considered dead, no longer spoken, so my work consisted mainly of translation, but to study prose around the world, you need to understand other languages.
Religion is a major reason for wanting to learn a second language. Since most religions pre-date the English language, it is often important to be able to go back to the earliest version of a religious book to avoid misinterpretations or revisions. For example, Christians might learn Hebrew, Aramaic and Biblical Greek; Muslims might learn Classical Arabic, and Buddhists might learn Sanskrit. Missionaries and other religious types learn languages in order to spread their message. In fact, missionaries have played a major role in documenting languages and devising writing systems for many of them. There are also people out there like myself who find religions themselves fascinating and their languages are often a key as to the culture surrounding religious groups.
Best Way to Learn a New Language?
Although I wish there was, there really is no “best” way to learn a second language, because everyone learns slightly differently. The way I learn is going to be completely different than the way you learn, and there is little we can do about that. However, some methods appear to be more effective than others, and placing a heavier weight on them in an educational program may help a student to succeed. The desire to learn a language is quite admirable, and fortunately many support systems to teach languages to new learners exist around the world. The most important thing to remember is that learning a language can be frustrating at first, but it is worth the effort. The key to being successful in learning a new language is as simple as three words: Dedication, Endurance, and Perseverance.
Many language teachers agree that immersion is an excellent way to learn a language. Immersion programs in the country where the language is spoken are especially valuable, as students must use the language outside of class as well as in it. In addition, students will learn more about the culture in which the language is spoken, which will give them context for their vocabulary. Most immersion grade schools insist on taking at least one trip to the place of the origin for the language to give students a chance to be forced to speak with native speakers. Some students benefit from taking a brief intensive in their native country before traveling to an immersion program or language school in a foreign country. The intensive establishes a foundation for the student to build upon as he or she learns. The great thing about immersion programs is that it forces the student to actually learn the new language rather than to simply regurgitate information or simply translate into your primary language ad nauseam. Use translation with dead languages, like Greek or Latin, because they are not going to change ever again, unlike every other language in the world that is dynamic and constantly changing.
If you can find a course in the language you are interested in within your country, this is quite a good way to study. A variety of courses are usually available, including part-time and full-time courses, short intensive courses, and courses leading to qualifications. If you look around, you can probably find a course that suits your requirements. The main advantage of such courses is that you`ll have a teacher or tutor to provide you with instruction, support, feedback, and with whom to practice your language. You will also be studying with others who are at more or less the same level and you can compare notes with them and help one another. Taking a course is not for everyone, however as some people don`t feel comfortable in a classroom environment and prefer to study at their own pace and when it suits them, plus the costs are considerably higher than other options.
There are many different courses designed for self-study that are now commonly available. These include textbooks, with or without cassettes or CDs, cassettes alone, videos, DVDs, and computer programs. Combination textbook audio tape courses are probably the most popular and are designed to give you an all round knowledge of a language. Some courses focus more on colloquial language while others concentrate more on reading and writing. Most courses are intended for complete beginners or people with only minimal knowledge of the language. Intermediate and advanced level courses are available for some of the more popular languages, such as French, German, Italian and Spanish. Computer courses are probably the most popular of all the options, and are designed to give you an all round knowledge of a language. Some of the better computer programs, like Rosetta Stone, are designed to give you the experience of an immersion program that does not do any translation so that you naturally pick up the language. The Rosetta Stone is pricy, but offers the choice of 31 different languages, all in an immersion setting. Obviously there are many similar products, but I mention this one only because I had success with it to learn Italian.
Most Popular Languages
The most popular language in the world is a tricky question to answer. If you simply go by the numbers, the number one language in the world is Mandarin Chinese with 882 million primary speakers, followed by Spanish with 325 million primary speakers, and followed by English in third place with 312 – 380 primary speakers. I think what the actual question in play is what is the easiest language to learn. I always like to start this answer by saying . . .learn the language you want to learn. Just because I tell you it may be hard, that is no reason why you should learn something little old me tells you too. Half the battle with learning a new language is that you can’t give up and you must dedicate yourself to your goal of learning that new language. Practice, practice, and then practice some more. Everyone looks and sound stupid when they first learned a new language, and there are even a lot of people out there like myself that sound stupid with their primary language as well. Just never give up.
As far as ease goes, we can break the languages into three separate categories based on their ease of learning. The "easiest" languages for speakers of English, requiring approximately 600 hours of class work for proficiency are the Latin and Germanic languages such as Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese. The “medium” level, requiring approximately 1100 hours of class work for proficiency are the Slavic languages, Turkic languages, other Indo-European languages such as Persian, Hindi, and some non-Indo-Europeans such as Georgian and Hebrew. Languages like Arabic, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese languages are quite difficult because of strange phonemes, large number of tones, and complex writing systems to name a few.
Perhaps there was a time not too long ago that made it nearly impossible to learn a new language, but in today’s day and age, that strange language you hear now and then is accessible at anytime. At most university institutions throughout the world, there are courses being taught in all sorts of languages not just the mainstream languages like French, Spanish, German, and Japanese, but it is no longer uncommon to be able to learn Aboriginal languages or dead languages like Latin or Greek. A lot of people prefer to learn on their own, and prefer to go the more inexpensive rout by purchasing audio tapes, computer programs, or textbooks to learn at their own pace. The hardest part about learning a new language is that it is far too easy to just give up when the material begins to get tough. For those that are able to persevere, the sky is the limit when learning a second language, but you cannot get there without hard work. The most important part about learning a new language is to choose a language that is important to you and have fun with it. Once you start picking up the new language, the easiest thing to do is to practice talking to people who also speak that language because you will learn more in real life situations than from a book.