Every Writer Should Learn a Foreign Language
Just over a year ago, I began a journey to learn my very first foreign language. As it happens, I chose Dutch. I had a blast learning how to speak in a new way and learning about a completely new culture. But my change in perspective of what I do as a writer may just be the most amazing thing of all.
Going into my language learning challenge, I always had the assumption that I could never write like I do in English without years of extensive study, living among native speakers — if even then! As a copywriter for businesses, I have a knack for finding the right words for any audience to help companies really connect with their customers. It all comes down to understanding the emotions that different words can emote. I just couldn't see myself doing that in a foreign language. But relatively soon in my language learning process, I realized that I was picking up on some of this emotion in my new language. This was an exciting prospect that changed the way I thought about my writing.
This epiphany made me realize that the most important thing about writing isn't the language at all. It’s the people. At the end of the day, it wasn't my knowledge of experience of the English language that makes me a good writer. It’s all about the way I think about and understand people. The funny thing is, that is my exact pitch to companies when I write their web content. I always tell stress how important it is for their web content to connect to their audience at an emotional level. Yet for some reason, I still thought it was my understanding of English that allowed me to do this effectively for my clients. Of course, a strong knowledge of English is vital to the process. But at the heart of everything, it’s about the people.
Learning about a new culture
Aside from a deeper understanding about what I do as a writer, is a more obvious result of learning a language. Learning a language is not an easy feat and thus staying motivated is critical. Getting excited about the culture(s) where your target language is spoken in, is a huge part of the language learning process.
But how does that help your writing? Learning about how different people think is what being a writer is all about. Back when I first decided I wanted to write, I realized that paying attention to people and trying to understand them is a critical part of the writing process. As a writer, it is important to keep your eyes open and to try to see things from different perspectives. And what better way to see things in a new perspective than learning about a new culture in their own native tongue?
Here in America, it’s way too easy for us to live as monoglots. But learning a new language can give you new perspectives and give you a chance to learn about how different people live. Stop making excuses and find a culture your interested in. As long as you are willing to overcome a few challenges along the way, you’ll have no problem regardless of the language you choose. And in the process, you will become a better writer too.
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