What learning a new language taught me.

Few days ago, I read many posts on my facebook timeline about the importance of learning a new language. Most of them will tell you that learning a new language distinguishes you from the rest. They emphasize on the importance of speaking many languages, at least being bilingual. One of the points that stuck in my mind is that your brain becomes quick at processing information. While this might be true, it is not easy for anyone like me to see this effect without appropriate instruments. Apart from this behind-the-hood advantages, there is the obvious advantage that learning a new language opens a new, if not completely, world.

As far as I have experienced it so far, learning any new language, however difficult the language is thought to be, like Russian in my case, is really fun! It seems odd for the native speaker to enjoy sentences like “I like cheese” but for a foreign language learner, there is no fun like being able to say it on your own. Watching some prank videos anywhere like on Youtube or Vimeo, as you try to guess the meaning seems also fun. It becomes also fun when you start learning history in the language, of course once you have got some more knowledge with time. You begin understanding things the way the writers wanted them to be understood. It however becomes less fun when you know you hear little kids fluently speak a sentence you’ve been scratching your head to understand. Even lesser fun, when you learn career-wise terms, like in my case, which can be really boring.

After all this fun, I usually start comparing everything to a language. Indeed, my reason proves to me that to enter any world you need to speak her language. And to have a world, you should create its language. This is very understandable to computer guys who know that almost anything about computers is described is some language, or at least some system. I came to understand that creating a language might be more fun than learning that language; simply because creating a language is trial-and-error while learning a language is learning those errors and their corrections. The language learner’s world becomes a sub-world of the language creator’s set, mathematicians, you got it? Hope so…! This, after all makes me wonder what why we, African countries, leave the beauty and fun of learning and inventing in our beautiful and fun world( that of our languages) and run after the Western and Eastern languages to the point of putting our entire education systems in those languages? We choose to be sub-worlds!

Maybe an example would make more sense! The time you are coping with understanding what x is is, because we don’t have that letter in our mother tongue(Kinyarwanda), the British student is coping with finding its value. This goes on and builds up for serious matters that require a strong understanding of the language to the point where the foreign language learner misses out the important points. In the meantime, the native language speaker is exploring beyond limits. I won’t bother giving example because they are innumerable. Nevertheless, the solution is there and has been, more than enough times, proven to work. For example, that education systems of economically independent countries like US, China, Russia, Brasil and even developing ones like Ethiopia(a role model in Africa) are in their native languages.

If the purpose of our education is to learn from those accomplished economies, which I think is totally OK, we should first learn embracing our worlds, our languages, our beautiful languages!

Need a summary?

We should learn to love and embrace our languages because those are our worlds without which we are going nowhere.

Desire Bikorimana.