Why Learn Another Language?
My first ever piece to inspire you to learn another language.
When I was 9, I left Hong Kong and spent 11 years in the UK to study in two boarding schools (It is like Hogwarts in Harry Potter minus the magic). Now I study Business Management at a University. I can speak Cantonese, English, a fair bit of Spanish and Mandarin. However, being able to speak 2 fluent languages does not even compare to some of my friends who can speak 5. It is the reason why I want to share my experience of learning another language.
The first major advantage of learning another language is the ability to network. After 11 years in the UK, I have had the luxury of becoming fluent in English. English is the 3rd most spoken language and in a networking perspective, many doors were opened for me. I was able to connect with people that have helped me through my youth, whilst away from my parents. For example, during my ‘Half Term’ (holiday in the middle of a school term that doesn’t exist in other countries) I had nowhere to go. Because I spoke good English, I made good friends and they allowed me to stay with their families. Consequently, they are now my life long friends.
Secondly, my native language is Cantonese which gives me an opportunity to learn Mandarin in a less stressful manner than most people. Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world. In this global economy, everyone is turning their eyes on China and I have no doubt this will give me future networking opportunities.
Finally, during my years in boarding I encountered a small population of Spaniards. At the same time, I was studying Spanish which meant that it enhanced my interest in their culture. As we bonded through mutual understanding and acceptance, little did I know I have set myself up for greater things in my future. Last year, one of the Spaniards introduced me to his neighbour in Spain who happened to have started a new company and now I am going to work for him as part of my University placement.
I understand that not everybody has the confidence to learn a new language and that not everybody is lucky enough to go to boarding school. However, for most of us, the chance of learning another language is ubiquitous in our education system and that we should capitalise on it. If you didn’t do this whilst in education, there are many other opportunities to explore the world and network. To name a few, there are au pair, overseas volunteering, governmental schemes etc. Don’t be afraid to go out into the unknown, you will be surprised with what you discover.
After you have met so many people because you can speak to the world, you will have learnt a thing or two about their culture. This allows you to act in their cultural norm and fit in. There will no longer be awkward situations where you find each others’ actions weird.
In my world, the word ‘weird’ doesn’t exist anymore because you learn to understand we are just all different. There is no universal rule on how to act, we have been brought up differently. For example, I will be greeting my Spanish friends with the two kisses. Hugs will be flying and heads clashing as we try to get as close to each other as possible. The next moment, I will be with my Cantonese friends in the background who are less physical.
The most important thing in these situations was that they were different yet subtly the same as we co-existed. I have learnt to view things from multiple perspectives and this gives me an open mind to accept all those around me.
A scientific explanation of why we should learn languages
Now that you can think in many perspectives, this can be applied to everyday life situations. For example, when someone makes you angry, you are more likely to think in their perspectives. You will think that there might be an external force outside his/her control which have caused the mistake. It might be their up-bringing or it might be their culture. Whatever it is, now you are less angry because you have mastered the ability of ‘empathy’. Empathy is when you can think in somebody else’s perspective and walk in their shoes. This leads to a happier attitude towards life which will reflect to happy behaviours.
Overall, if you even have the slightest thought of learning another language, go ‘DO IT’. Once you have learnt another language, you are more likely to network, become more open minded and happier. After all, not everything in life will go your way. However, if you have more friends to support you and you have a happy attitude you will realise everything is part of the journey. I learnt that life is about the happiness in pursuit rather than the pursuit of happiness. Happiness is a process not a finished product. SO, hesitate no more and begin the process of a happy journey.
Well done for reading the whole piece. Have fun learning!
Polo (Global Marketing Assistant at GAZ VR)