I learned my first foreign language aged 6 when living near London for a year and playing a tiny part in a school play I still remember the Royal Mail delivery boy’s one line: ‘a letter for your majesty !’. I always had a fascination for the English language and did rather well at it from then onwards. Spending 3 years in the USA aged 12 certainly helped and British English becoming American English only to be changed once again from my early 20’s into Irish English. My struggles with the French Language (although I did enjoy it eventually with the help of private tuition reading Maigret crime stories in a cigarette and coffee scented room filled with books and my tutor. Latin never did it for me either but helped with languages and grammar understanding. Having lived in Ireland for almost 14 years now, visiting it for another 10 years before that, I must say that I have truly seen and experienced the importance of languages. Languages are part of culture. They are what we hear, speak and learn when growing up. We all have the same needs, desires, fears and emotions really but expressing them can sound so much different from language to language or…quite similar. In times like these when following the news has become hard at times since the negative news seem to overshadow anything good still left in this world by miles. Cultures clash. Religions are turned against one another. Communication fails or is not desired in the first place.
When we talk to someone in his or her native language or vice versa we have a better understanding of one another. An understanding that goes deeper than mere sound and vocabulary. It is an understanding of culture, and understanding of history, an understanding of humor, an understanding of stereotypes and cliches.
World conflicts are based on power, money and also on lack of communication or deeper understanding of other cultures and mentalities. We all know certain stereotypes about different Nations, Cultures and Mentalities. The Italian Amore, the British Humour, The German Efficiency etc.
Learning a language and practicing it means that we show an interest as well as respect when it comes to other cultures. It bridges a gap. It makes us more the same. There is one barrier less.
One does not have to go to Germany, Switzerland or Austria to learn German just like it is possible to learn English just about anywhere nowadays. It is always for the best to live in the country where that language is spoken needless to say but learning a language, whether it is online or at a meetup group or in fact at a language school can be done anywhere. It gives me great joy meeting so many students from so many different countries and cultures with different mentalities and it really gives me an insight into their background. It also makes me proud being able to share my very own with them. This is what life is about in my opinion: to travel the planet we live on and see as much of it as possible, meeting as many people as possible and for that or while doing so, what better base is there than learning and practicing a foreign language ?