About those Languages
I write a lot about language learning and different world languages. Although, I do not know many well, I thoroughly enjoy studying, comparing, and learning new words in another language. The very construction of language as a form of communication interests me. I have written multiple articles on ways to learn a langauge, practice a language and more. However, an interesting topic to discuss is when should you start learning another language? (Assuming you are going for two or more…)
The answer to the question isn’t exact. People will differ in opinion. I’d like to hear your thoughts on it below! The truth is, there are a lot of considerations with respect to language. In this article, I am going to give my perspective based off of things that I have heard and experienced.
We have all heard the saying “jack of all trades” as describing someone who is good at many things. Some go as far as to say, “jack of all trades but master of none” inferring that a person is not able to be good at one thing because they are so diverse and ‘unfocused’. I think that we have to take this context into consideration when discussing language and language learning in general. One could say, “jack of all languages, but master of none” when describing someone who doesn’t spend enough time learning another foreign language correctly.
So let’s say you have been taking Japanese for one and a half years. You feel competent that you could walk into a conversation and handle yourself, but you might not be able to translate official documents into your native tongue. Thus, you can get the general idea of a situation. Should you move on to another language? It depends.
1.) Goals – What are your goals with learning another language? Are you learning a language for business? Perhaps, for the ability to study Samurai culture? Maybe to impress your foreign colleagues with phrases. Or, are you trying to become a translator between Japanese and English? All of these will require a completely different comprehension of the language. The more serious the goal, the more serious grasp one should have one their second and third languages and so forth. On the other hand, a backpacker traveling around the world, might benefit greatly from being a ‘jack of all languages‘. Knowing a few phrases in many languages can go a long way. Finding out what your primary goals are is important, this may answer your question.
2.) The next language – Which language do you want to learn next? Keeping to the Japanese theme: are you beginning to learn Korean? Or are you looking to get into Italian? The similarity and differences between the languages are somewhat important. I learned this lesson the hard way. You can over-do it. The more similar the languages are to one another, the more difficult a time you will have distinguishing between the two. This doesn’t mean you cannot learn two similar languages, but if you are in the beginning stages you might mix words, grammar, and communication.
3.) Your resources – Yes, time is a resource in this circumstance. It doesn’t take too many financial resources to begin a new language outside of book costs. These days, you can even get plenty of language resources online. Do you have the time devote to learning a new language? What about access to the language that you want to learn?
4.) Other considerations – What is your drive? Do you really want to learn another language? What will you be able to do with the language? What uses can you apply to it.
When I first got interested in languages, I thought that I was going to become a polyglot overnight. I tried taking lessons in multiple languages at the same time. Guess what? It didn’t happen, and I failed. There are some people with a great gift for languages. Take the savant, who learned Icelandic in one week, for example. He’s good. But for normal humans, it takes some more thought, time, and effort. I’d like to share one of the best perspectives that I have heard on this topic:
Are you perfect in your native language? Likely, not. Although we speak it fluently, we still make grammatical errors in our native tongues from time to time. Therefore, you are always learning your first language. Language is fundamentally, communication. Once you can effectively communicate with minimal major errors, it might be time to move on to the next. You will always be improving in every language you learn, assuming you maintain use of it.
Therefore, once you are able to communicate you may consider beginning another. Unless of course you are a perfectionist. Then, it might take you longer.
What are your thoughts on this topic?
When do you think that it is time to start learning another language? Which language are you learning?
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