Since I was a wee lad everybody around me has pushed me to learn a language other than my mother tongue. I begrudgingly tried my hand at German, then fumbled my way through high school Spanish. I never really put effort into learning a second language until I started to see a Hispanic culture blossom around me. I still distinctly remember sitting in a room full of Latinos and not being able to understand a thing they were saying. At that moment, I had never felt so inadequate as a person. These people had the ability to connect through a medium that was completely foreign to me. It was so aggravating that I resolved to make a change.
The very next day I decided to put everything I had into learning. I took classes, practiced at night on Rosetta Stone, until finally I was eligible for an intensive course in Oviedo, Spain. I knew that Spain would be the push I needed to finally learn the language. What I didn’t know is how it would completely change how I saw the world around me.
It opens your mind to
new avenues of thought
Since I was a child, the only language I had ever used to decipher the world was English. Suddenly I was thrown into a country where Spanish was my only option for connection with the world around me.Things that were done with such ease required immense concentration. I would cling to every phrase, every word, in the hope that I would be understood. Gradually Spanish phrases and references began to take root inside my brain. As they did I began to see the world in a different light. The Spanish language is a language deeply rooted in love and imagery. I never understood why people called it a language of love, akin to that of French, until I began to converse with those around me.
Understanding others’ emotions
When learning a language you start to become the “Rainman” of reading peoples’ body language and emotion. Language was created for one individual to communicate with another, when learning another language I reverted back to the most basic form of communication. Like a child crying to convey pain or sorrow, or shouting with laughter for joy, I was like a open book for those around me. From flailing my arms like a conductor, to shouting in a joyful tone, I would attempt to understand and be understood by those around me. Reverting to this simplistic form of communication bred a more honest form of language. It was one I was glad to partake in and learn as I discovered new words and phrases each day.
You begin to truly care
for what others say
We live in a day and age, in which it is better to be heard rather than to listen. However, to learn a language you must listen or you will never truly understand what is happening all around you. As you listen to the thoughts and ideals of others, the people around you become very important. Each new word and thought presented by the individuals I spoke with challenged my ontology and forced me to look deeper to unveil the mystery of this new language. Constantly struggling with new ideas, thrown at me by people whose reality is filtered by a completely different language, is a truly remarkable experience. It inspired me to try and form a lasting connection with all whom allowed me the pleasure of speaking with them.
to the introvert
Learning a new language is full of pitfalls and embarrassing moments. There were many situations my inner introvert wished to avoid, but to truly master a new language I had to tackle them head on. I can recall attempting to say something in the way of, “I’m so excited for that movie” only to end up saying “I’m so horny for that movie”. Everybody laughed, I was embarrassed, but all was right in the world. Unnerving as it may be, as I stumbled through each embarrassing moment I became stronger and wasn’t as shaken by awkward social interaction as I once was.
No matter what way you cut it, learning a different language is an experience we all must endeavor to accomplish. For as long as I live, I will cherish the times spent sharing some food with a Spaniard, trying to understand the trappings of his or her mind. All while struggling to master their language. I promise you, learning a language will be a time of laughter, love and joy. So next time you see an opportunity seize it and start on your journey toward a more enlightened mind, you will not regret it.