I believe it is no secret that being able to speak multiple languages today is a big advantage, independent whether you impress friends from Iran with your Arabic reading skills, selling your products in Chinese to your customer from Beijing or talking to the waitresses in the Italian restaurant in their mother tongue. But when deciding to learn a new language, many questions come to everybody’s head: Which language? How should I get started? How much time should I spend per week? Unfortunately, most people get the idea, ask themselves those questions and are motivated for one week and then lose their initial motivation.
After I started learning Swedish four years ago and exactly this happened to me, I quit the idea of learning a new language beside my studies for some time but right now I can proudly admit that I got my motivation back, and now I am able to speak German, English, and Russian languages almost fluently, French and Spanish on a high level and I started learning Chinese and Arabic. I believe that the right motivation is the key to almost everything, and it makes even the hardest challenges manageable. That is why I wanted to share my three most important motives for learning new languages:
Connect the world
First and most obviously, the ability of speaking to people all around the world in their mother tongue makes you a connector. Everyone is pleased when others are trying to communicate in one’s native language, and you automatically establish a first connection. In my opinion, a smile on the face of my counterpart is already worth years of learning and suffering from all the vocabulary. If the native speaker is even answering you in their own language, you both built a good base and bond for the ongoing relation. Despite the fact what kind of personality you have, you already gained sympathy by only saying ‘Hola’ instead of ‘Hello’. There is no easier way as getting warm with a stranger. In addition to that, I don’t have to tell you that this instant connection will have many advantages when it comes to your career.
Never let your Brain get bored
My brain gets bored very easily. In my first semesters of my physics studies, it was suffering a lot because I was torturing it 24/7 with several integrals and quantum effects. After my second-year things became more laid back (or I rather got used to it) and I started to get bored and started over-thinking every step I made. Now I know that my brain just was bored and searched for other interesting thoughts. One day I decided to sign up for a beginner Spanish course in my university (see last paragraph). This was the best decision because things became better, and I realized that I felt a lot better. Soon I started to learn Arabic and Chinese as well, and I realized that I trained parts of my brain which were neglected during my physics studies. Suddenly my memory, my multitasking ability and concentration improved. First, I thought that I am imagining those effects but after researching I found out that there are many studies which assume a correlation between multilingualism and improved brain activities (e.g., https://n.neurology.org/content/81/22/1938)
The desire of understanding
In my case, it all started with music. As a passionate dancer, music is always around me. After getting more into the Salsa community of course I started to increase the number of Spanish songs I listen too. Soon I also developed a preference for Arabic, French and Portuguese (yes, this is the next language on my To-Do list) music. After some time, I was wondering what those people were singing about because there were so many emotions in their voice. Of course, translating the lyrics is a possibility, but isn’t this just too easy?
Shortly after that I participated in a conference where I go to know many Spanish people who were speaking Spanish all the time. This was the cherry on top, and the next week I started to learn Spanish. I believe that everyone has that desire of understanding things, doesn’t matter if it’s your friends, the new song on the radio or the nurses in hospital talking to each other while looking at you.
Of course, there are way more reasons for learning and speaking multiple languages. Just find your main motivation, write it on the wall next to your desk or bed, and never forget it. Of course, my language journey is not over yet, it just has started!