What does learning a new language mean to you?
I have battled a destructive chronic illness for over 33 years and over those 33 years, I have lost 90% of my functioning both physically and cognitively, the latter of which is the harder to cope with. To lose one’s ability to understand and learn new information and then to be able to actually retain it and use it is devastating. Especially for someone who’s passionate about learning. I don’t say this to get “oh, poor you’s,” not at all. Life is what it is and I still have that remaining 10% of my functioning left for now!
I am housebound and live a very simple life, but get transported to different places in the world through my books and tv shows. I have long been drawn to Sweden and if I could visit only one place, it would be Ystad, Sweden. And I love the melodic sound of their language but considered learning it far beyond my capabilities. In fact, I didn’t even consider it. Then a few weeks ago, I discovered Duolingo and just dove into learning Swedish and so far so good! And I am having a lot of fun though I’m always somewhat nervous throughout the lessons as I don’t like to make mistakes!
So I realized this morning that learning a new language is hope for me. Not for anything dramatic, not for health or wealth in the future type hope, but simply hope that I can learn. And it gives my life meaning. Every morning when I wake up in the early morning darkness, no matter how bad I’m feeling, I’m excited and hopeful about learning a few more words and being able to study ‘my’ Swedish. Thanks for listening.
What does learning a new language mean to you?
What an inspiring post. Thanks for sharing and thanks for the great question.
"What does learning a new language mean to you" depends on the language and the lifecycle I was in when I started to learn it:
English meant the chance to express myself and be understood outside of my home country. This language opened the borders.
German meant for me the way how to communicate in business and how to use the body language with business partners.
Italian meant for me the learning with a passion dating with an Italian girl and discover the great Italian culture with her using the Italian language.
French meant for me the change in my life, the relocation and a new chapter in my career.
Learning a new language is always a challenge and a never-ending story, dedicating time every single day - as a habit.
I hope, you can visit your desired Swedish location.
All the best,
I've started my English journey many years ago - I have been using it for effective communication for ~12 years now. I am in an international area now so luckily I can regularly use all my languages.
I really hope you can find the solution to visit Sweden in person. I was in Malmö a couple of months ago. The seaside, the fresh air, the people and the long daylight in summer were amazing.
All the best and don't be stressed about writing something. People are great - at least I want to see the positive side of them. :)
Thank you Ledo for telling me this! You visited Malmö and during the summer! It sounds wonderful. That’s a short trip away from Ystad where I’d love to go. I go to Sweden in my visualizations I do everyday as meditation. It’s far from the real thing but it makes me feel good.
Thank you for your encouragement. I may be stressed about writing something but I do it anyway! My best to you!
I completely agree with you, GlassSlippers, and Simon; learning languages can open something entirely new in life and take you on a venture of culture and tradition, new words and sounds; even if you don't realize it. I'm actually planning on learning so many languages in life, though I fear that it might be impossible. I still have some courage, though, and each month, each week, every DAY I am learning something new from the two current and valuable languages I am teaching myself: Spanish and Japanese. But hey, I'm only 14, I think I have more time to learn more languages and travel the world. I hope to reach my goal in life, and I hope all of you do too! ; )
Learning a language means one step more towards understanding the thoughts and feelings of people whose culture and attitudes are a little different - or sometimes very different - to my own. Another step towards being able to read their literature in their own words and not in the words of a translator that can never really convey the language of the original author. And, if I'm very lucky, towards being able to actually speak to a few of these people.
It doesn't matter that I'll never be able to master even a fraction of it all. Just a little is enough; just one little step towards understanding the wonderful range of peoples and personalities in the world, to hear or to read their own words, however small each step may be.
To only possess 10% functionality and write a post like that, let alone learn a language is....how do you do it?
This brings to mind Stephen Hawking, a British physicist who's genius advanced science and even revised some of Einstein's theories. Through disease his entire body was paralyzed and he could not even talk.
But it did not stop him. Where there's a will and a passion, there's a way. The power of the mind is infinite in its ability.
Nice to have you here, "Simon". Keep on keepin' on !
It's a great example - I'm just reading a book from Stephen Hawking (The Theory of Everything) and you pointed out: Anyting is possible. He couldn't move,he couldn't even speak, but achieved more than expected.
So SimonSaysSo my fingers are crossed now and I wish you all the best to realize (one of) your dream and travel to Sweden. :)
Thanks for such an inspiring post! I've poked at Spanish for decades, since taking it in high school, but this year I decided to study it seriously. I've long wanted to be able to read Spanish and Mexican literature, but to be honest... I'm 60-plus with a family history of Alzheimer's. Learning a new language helps me keep my mind functioning well and at least with some agility. So... Spanish and crosswords and making a point of writing every day: These are my goals for this year and next. Thanks again!
Hello Judy! I am learning French for similar reasons. I have just turned 70! and have always wanted to learn French, starting and stopping several times in my life only to quit when it became too hard. As life has progressed, my Mother has ALZ and my Father, PK with dementia. Learning French and developing new pathways in my brain has become very important to me. I have now been doing daily lessons with Duo for 1 1/2 years and my brain actually hurt in the early lessons when I slugged through, but I am now having success! Am going to France early next year and have just signed up for a 3 week French immersion class in Quebec in the summer! I will be so thrilled if I really can speak another language! I was zooming through the lessons, but now am spending more time carefully reading, speaking, and learning new words and sentence structure through the Duo stories. I hope they write more! I am beginning to memorize them!
A few years ago, I compiled a sort of Bucket List of things I want to learn, and on my birthday each year, I select one thing from the list. For this year, I narrowed it down to a few choices, one of which was to learn a new language. I selected German for the simple reason that it was the language about which I thought I knew the least.
As an aside, I mentioned to a friend that I'd narrowed this year's short list to learning to speak German and learning to play the didgeridoo. Her comment was that they both sounded about the same.
What I'm discovering is that there are many more similarities between English and German grammar than I thought there would be. I'm a huge fan of classical English literature, and I'm finding that many of the nuances of German grammar which many native English speakers on here find so befuddling actually have direct parallels in now-archaic English. Many German sentence structures which seem peculiar to modern English speakers would have made perfect sense to the likes of William Shakespeare, Ben Johnson, or Christopher Marlowe. To me, it's fascinating to see the evolutionary divergence between the two languages over time.
What does learning a new language mean to you?
As part of my job, I have had the opportunity to visit Vienna 3 times over the past few years. I very much enjoy the city, the people and the Austrian culture. Learning the German language allows me to retain a small part of Austria in my daily life. As a side benefit, I'm also able to communicate with my colleagues in their native language, which I think is very cool.
Great post. I found your story inspirational! Thanks for sharing this.
Thank you for sharing that with us, it's a very inspiring post. I wish you all the best!
I've always enjoyed learning languages, since it is interesting to see how they differ, what similarities they have and what different types of grammatical features they have. I also like the glimpses into other cultures it gives me and the fact that it lets me read a wider range of things. Since I'm out of work, learning languages also gives me something useful to do and improves my self-esteem.
For me, it's an adventure when the other types of adventures have been out of my reach (either for health problems, lack of money, or other things.)
Learning a new language opens chances of meeting new people, reading new books, listening to new music, and watching new films, among other things. (And maybe one day visit the places!)
Besides, I have to bless the fact that genetics and the environment help me in that matter (I come from a family in which we all speak at least two languages beside our native Spanish).
I've very recently decided to take up Hungarian, a language I've been dreaming of learning for years. It's being interesting to say the least.
Also, good luck with your learning of Swedish!
This is so inspiring. Thank you for sharing this. I hope you are able to go to Sweden. I'm wishing you all the best. This is a great question, too. Thank you for asking.
Learning is my passion. I have enjoyed learning from a young age. Researching, and learning something new, is what motivates me. From a young age, I have been interested in Ukraine. The country, the culture, everything. I decided to begin learning Ukrainian, and, now, a year later, it is one of the best decisions I have ever made. To me, learning a language is about being able to learn something new. Thank you for reading.
Thank you for sharing your story, SimonSaysSo! My reason for learning and studying French is twofold: 1) to feel more confident if I ever have the opportunity to travel to a Francophone country, and 2) to be able to conduct research more easily on the Tarot de Marseille, as so many of the books and materials are in French and have not been well translated.
Learning new languages to me gives me hope and happiness! :) I LOVE the sound of the languages I want to learn and there are about 28 of them with dialects. :) I listened to each one of them and found BEAUTY and MYSTERY with each one! :) I listen to songs in them every day! :) Nothing should hold you back from learning a language that you desire. I want to learn the Aramaic of Maaloula and will take ANYTHING and EVERYTHING to learn it! :) I've even found some books and Booklet/CD's of Kyoto-Ben and I REALLY want to learn this, wanted to since I was about 10 years old! :) You never know what can come of learning new languages. If it brings you joy and a sense of accomplishment, then right there, is a GREAT motivator. I keep things of each language in front of me to keep me motivated and I think learning languages is right up there with learning music, as I play guitar as well. :) I treat each language as if they are MY language too! :) A few of them are my nationalities. Your story is so inspiring and I hope for you that one day you will encounter someone that speaks the Swedish language! :) Miracles do happen, you just have to believe! :) I wish you much luck going forward! :) Thanks for sharing your story here to inspire others! :)
What an interesting yet very overlooked question. What is learning a language to me? A number of things. My dream job factors into it. My dream occuptaion is a translator (verbal). And I know it sounds silly when you first hear it, but think about it. In war, when countries have coalitions (think of the Persian Gulf War; the Allied countries added up to 39!), you have to be able to communicate with those allies. My goal is to learn at least 25 languages, because when I join the army, I will be able to travel to places in unrest, such as El Salvador and Syria, and communicate between English soldiers and villiagers. I know it sounds strange that it is my dream, but I want to achieve as close as what we all dream: world peace. Also, it is little known, but learning a new language fights off diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer's! I want to help my country and the world as much as I can, and at the moment, all we can do is learn.
Also, I hope you go to Sweden. I've had a friend that went there, and as far as his description it is absolutely magical. I believe him and in you. Keep learning and you'll get to go there some day!
I think it’s a wonderful dream! We need more people like you in this world of, as you said, so much “unrest.” People who want to communicate and help, not stay apart from. I hope you realize your dream of learning at least 25 languages. I’m in awe of that, of all the many people you’ll be able to learn from. Hold on to that vision and dream job!
What a wonderful post! I like learning languages because it's fun, challenging and it opens you up to whole new worldviews. Since I'm studying to become a translator, I'm mostly focusing on my third language, German, (in addition to strengthening the two languages I already speak fluently) but I do enjoy this as more than a professional investment. Now that I'm in college and I'm being taught better than I was at school, learning languages is no longer a chore to me. This has become one of my hobbies and I absolutely love it (even though I get frustrated sometimes). I want to be able to understand and connect with all sorts of people, I want to be knowledgeable and resourceful, I want to indulge in other cultures, etc. There's just so much that learning a language can do for you, it's incredible.
My grandfather was Hungarian, he's not around anymore, but I have a great aunt that lives in Budapest. I've never met her and she doesn't speak a lick of English, but I'm hoping to visit her next year!
I've always wanted to learn a new language, and I took a lot of Spanish in high school. I never learned anything beyond the basics and viewed it as my easy A class. Now, with Hungarian, I have a personal connection to it. Now I feel like I'm actually learning. I'm on a mission now whereas before I just eked by. I'm going to have a conversation with my aunt!
For me, learning a new language means I can connect with family and my heritage.
Good luck in your Swedish studies SimonSaysSo! I hope you get to go one day.
Learning means a lot to me, but here are a few:
Learning languages to help me get a 'step up' in the world: I'm still in school, so the more I know about specific languages the more job options there are. Not wanting to be homeless is pretty normal.
It brings out personality: Yes, really. With every language or language family I begin speaking, my brain associates it with an emotion. Anger or frustration tend to bring out Chinese, confusion leads to Vietnamese, and Korean leads to love/romance. It's strange, I know.
Connecting with more people: I live in Houston, a pretty diverse city. My high school has many people from around the world, most group together and speak their native languages. Most recently, I've taken up German in order to get closer to a particularly handsome classmate from Berlin.
We're all gonna die anyway, so why don't we enlighten ourselves with knowledge?
This is such an inspiring post! Thank you for sharing your story, it deeply touched me.
I am learning German. I visited Germany and Austria last year, and I really fell in love with especially the Austrian culture. I am a freshman in highschool, so I need language credits. I decided to learn German because of my awesome experience with the countries in Europe that speak German. In college I would like to spend a year as a foreign exchange student in Austria (I love Salzburg, but Vienna is pretty great too).
In travelling to other countries I realized how Americans are not very engaged in learning other languages to communicate with the world. It's sad, because almost every country in Europe starts teaching Kindergartens English. Then they have to learn a second language in high school. Most people in Europe speak three or more languages fluently. Yet in the United States, most people only speak one language and maybe some basic words and phrases in another. (Now this can vary depending on where you live. I live in Texas, so many people speak Spanish because there are many Mexican immigrants). I want that to change. Americans need to start learning different languages as well, not every other country having to teach their children English because the Americans don't take the time to learn their language. Just a small rant XD
However, I have one other goal in mind for my language that keeps me motivated. I have always wanted my own kids since I was 4. With my experience from several friends who grew up bio-lingual I want my future kids to have that opportunity as well... So I am not really learning German for myself and the pleasure of speaking it, it is really because some day I want to teach my kids German. That is just my story.
Thanks again SimonSaysSo for your greatly inspiring post :D
Hello MercyVeer, I loved your comment. I so admire your open mindedness, motivation and hopes/goals for the future as well as for now. I was not able to have children which is a great source of sorrow but I feel the same way as you do. I would want that child to speak another language at least. I grew up in New York City and was exposed to so many different ways of living and speaking and it opened my eyes and my mind. I think we in this society tend to think our way is the only way, if that makes sense. I’m trying not to offend anyone! And we travel to other places expecting others to communicate in English. So rant away all you want to! I agree.
And go to college and to Austria! When I was in college, a long long time ago, my then boyfriend spent a semester in Vienna living with this wonderful older woman who welcomed him into her home. It was a tremendous experience for him! I was lucky and grateful to be able to travel there and spend a magical Christmas in Vienna! Then New Years Eve holiday in Switzerland where I got to struggle with my French. So beautiful.
So study away and hold on to your dreams and... enjoy the journey!
Wow, that’s sad. Is it a terminal illness? Just curious. That’s great that you could find hope amidst a lot of sadness! I’m learning a language cause it is interesting, and I feel that it is a bit unfair that some people are surprised I am bilingual(I’m in a mostly monolingual place), but I never really put work into being bilingual.
Hello Vetyr_Cylni, this is a terminal illness for many and may be for me but not in near future. It is sad, thank you for seeing that and I carry a lot of sorrow from so so many losses. But you know, I let myself feel the sorrow and grief when it needs a voice and then it subsides and on the whole, I manage to enjoy my simple life. It’s amazing how much we can adapt. I am by nature a ‘happy’ person and that spirit still lives no matter how sick. I try and work hard to just stay in the present. Anyway, enough babbling from me. Why are people surprised you’re bilingual? That would hurt my feelings, that assumption from others. I wouldn’t like it either. Thanks for sharing.
I have always been fascinated by languages and learnt them with much ease. Thi fascination became somewhat an obsession when I started sttudzying English at the university. I wrote my thesis on the notions of the one J.R.R. Tolkien about how languages are born and how they develop and decided to study as many languages as I can also to honor one of my great-grandfathers who spoke or understood 6 or 7 languages. I am recently learning Italian, French, Spanish, Swahili, I started learning Russian, Arabic and Latin. I once started Norwegian and Navajo and I intend to continue learning them in the future as well as other languages. Some might consider it extreme but for me languages are reflections of our personality, culture and everything that makes us human and learning new languages sheds light on more shades of this essential part of ourselves.
Your post shows a lot of hope and it is truly amazing how learning something can make people become truly happy.
The thing in your post which caught my attention was that you would like to visit Ystad. I have spent a lot of time there when I was younger. What is it that inspires you about this town? Is it from swedish litterature or maybe just the beauty of the town?
I'll try to describe a few memories of mine which I think are beautiful.
Imagine you are in the middle of the summer, walking through town. You don't take the way with the shops, you take a sideway of into an unknown street. One of the first things you will notice are the flowers. Hollyhocks they are called. Standing along the street by each and every house. Then you will notice the houses, colourful but yet old fashion. I wouldn't say there is any strong smells, only fresh air.
Then you continue to the outskirts of the city and onto the beach. All the greenery on one side of the walkway and on the other there is the sea. Not only is there a beautiful see which reflex the sunlight, but there are also swans, majestic white swans. You feel the breeze against your skin carrying the salty smell of the sea.
I hope you were able to dream away to this destination, and that you one day might be able to experience it.
Oh Elin, you just made my day! You’ve been in Ystad and your wonderful description or vision carried me there. It is as I imagine. I can’t travel so my wants and dreams arise from books and shows. And the Wallander (suddenly I forgot the correct spelling, shame on me!) book series by Henning Mankell opened a door for me many years ago that has opened a new world to me. It is my all time favorite and the Swedish tv series is also excellent-the stories and politico-social statements, but mostly, the characters, the scenery, the music and the melodic language. Thank you so much for your visualization and your message.
Your story is truly inspiring As for what it means, it means connecting with my polish ansestors and giving me a better understanding of the tough history of the poles, who have been long opressed in europe, yet still held onto their culture and heritage, which is awe inspiring in itself
Even though Croatian is my first language. I also speak Italian as my second language since I was small, well actually an Italian dialect. I have always watched Italian television which helps with my actual Italian, not the dialect. But it gets pretty hard for me to speak or write in Italian because I'm scared that I'll mess something up. So I decided to learn Spanish and French because I really fancy those languages, but as my base language I put Italian and not English, just for the purpose to practice writing in it. "Quot linguas calles tot homines vales" With this long introduction and quote I'll finally get to the point. I really like learning languages, like being able even to say simple things as I love you, thank you, I need help... just mean the world to me.
To me it means to dream about visiting Turkey. I came across Duolingo’s website when I was looking to learn a free language. Here in Puerto Rico, Turkish soap operas and mini series are very popular. They always present nice scenery from Istanbul, it is beautiful there! However, I notice that when the soaps are translated to Spanish, the spoken language of Puerto Rico, I get the sense that I’m missing something. The voice doing the translation doesn’t match the person. It happens also when I watch movies translated from English to Spanish from the U.S.. Once you know what the voice of an actor or actress sounds like in their native language, the translated Voice in Spanish sounds phony to me. The jokes and other remarks are not as good or, convincing and many are lost in the translation. This is the reason why I am trying to learn Turkish. So that I can watch the mini series online spoken in the original voices. It is also my mental exercise.
What a wonderful reason! I watch primarily Swedish shows and have to read subtitles. I miss a lot that way. I love the language and am excited when I can hear familiar words. But I am very new at this and it’s not often that they say something I’m learning like “the woman is eating an apple and drinking water!” Hope that makes sense. Good luck with your learning Turkish!
Honestly, at first, I always kind of thought Spanish wasn´t for me. But then my dad persuaded me to not do Japanese, but instead Spanish. So I practiced Spanish here just in case I got accepted for my Spanish class. But now it is kind of an addiction, lol. I still don´t know if I am in because I only asked 2 days ago to officially move classes (Because it might be full)
But now I feel weirdly connected to Spanish so yay :,)
Wow Yes your totally right. To be honest I don't really have a reason to learn a language accept that I want to understand my surroundings and its required in order to graduate. That was a powerfull post. Ill give you some lingnots next week once I get 40 or 10!!!! Thankyou for being so awsome
Thank you very much for having shared your feelings and thoughts is a so well written form.
"What does learning a new language mean?" is a good question. For me it's the way to create a bridge to other people and their culture. It covers almost all daily activities, including job, hobbies, travelling while reading.
I learnt Spanish because I came to Barcelona very young and it was kind of "natural" at that time. English was my language at school. Catalan is another language we use in the region. German has always been my passion (thanks Mom!) ... it let's me read Heine and Goethe. Esperanto is a dream not yet a reality. Italian is a language I discovered this year.
ON the other hand, almost a year ago, and after a conversation with a friend, I asked myself why should I stay with languages that employ similar alphabets. What about Russian, Chinese and/or Arab? I'm using Busuu to learn Russian and Chinese. Duolingo is still too hard for me. I hope I'll make progress and be able to have simple conversations.
Sorry if I bother you. To end, I think that we may not know each other, but we have one main thing in common: we love learning languages.
Hello Alberto-Villar, your comment is wonderful! Thank you for sharing your experience. I can’t imagine learning all those languages! I really admire that. If I had my life to do over again, it would involve more languages and being out there in the world to explore other cultures and meet other people. I think we have two things in common: a love for languages and a passion for learning. Thank you for posting.
Learning a new language to me is learning how to learn. I have autism. I've been in schools where I was berated, snarled, and snapped at with sarcasm for years. I had a vitamin deficiency so I slowly lost my concentration on things, got more irritated by everything, and worked very slowly. I thought I was stupid, yet there were certain things that I understood that made people believe I was smart. I was so confused about all of this.
When I wanted to learn Japanese nine years ago, the lessons came in REALLY fast! A Japanese speaking teacher who expected us to learn all the Hiragana right away. I quit those lessons after a while because I couldn't take it anymore. The same with German. We had to learn German but I've learned this bi-yearly so it never got far. My mother understood German very well, but she and my dad pushed the 'stamping method' onto me. This does not work for me in the slightest, I need to understand it first before I remember it.
So now that I've experienced school life for a revoltingly long time and how it crushed my self esteem and confidence in anything because of how I was treated, I now have my vitamin levels back and get this new surge of energy and focus. That's why I took Japanese and German for free because I want to. I want to see what works for me without being pushed or berated. I want to feel what it's like to strengthen my neurogenesis. I want to finish what I've started and do it well.
Hello Reinoudvan5 and thank you for sharing so much. It hurts me to hear of the terrible way you’ve been treated and the pain that must cause. It’s so so sad that we treat anyone who differs from what ‘we’ designate as the norm in such a hostile and hurtful way. And yes it devastates self-esteem and confidence. I don’t have autism so i don’t know what it’s like to walk in your shoes but I do know what it’s like to be sick all the time and lose so so much. Especially losing my cognitive abilities has destroyed my self-confidence. And I often feel stupid. Like when I’m trying to take a simple measurement of fabric and get ten different numbers each time and eventually have to ask for help. I may not sound like I have problems but it’s a ‘good’ moment for me. Not being able to participate in society over so many years has made me feel less than others. I struggle with these feelings often.
I’m so glad to hear you’ve got your vitamin deficiencies corrected. Hopefully your concentration is better and you can really learn the way you can learn without others derision. I’m glad you want to learn these languages. You have a strength that shines through. To still want to learn after your terrible experiences is that strength. That is really something. Please remember that. I hope that doesn’t sound condescending. I just want you to hear a voice that’s cheering for you!
To me learning a language means a lot as well. To me it's a way I connect to my culture and I'm hoping one one day I can find my family and Italy to visit them. Maybe one day I could even move there! But to me it gives me family and culture.
In response to the original poster, what a beautiful story very heart touching and quite remarkably inspiring!
Aww, thank you AaronOrsette. It surprises me that you and a few others found my post inspiring. That means a lot to me but it’s not something that I ever thought about. I was afraid people would think I’m feeling sorry for myself. But if my ‘story’ can be inspiring then another good thing has come out of this long illness! Thank you very much! Or Tack så mycket! (Swedish)