Why Learn a New Language?
Language is a precious human resource. It connects us, and gives us the ability to express abstract thoughts and interpretations of the universe from within our mind.. It gives us the potential to communicate in a way which is within our control to manipulate, strategically design and deliver a certain outcome. It gives us power over each other but also, and, more importantly, it is a way to show compassion and empathy.
The words Ludwig van Beethoven used in his famous love letter to his unnamed ‘Immortal beloved’, became immortal through that incredible strength of feeling conveyed through the language, living long past his lifetime and inspiring us today in 2020.
Out of the 6,500 languages on Earth today, one-third of these are spoken by less than 1000 people. Languages are dying out as we move towards a more global world. It isn’t, however, the weakest languages that fade. For example, Pirahã, spoken in the Amazon, reflects their more complex social structure, compared to the language of comparatively simple city dwellers.
So what does it mean to speak one of the most commonly used languages in the world? Why is it powerful, and is its widespread nature making it more so, leading it to be even more widespread? Is this another way to control aspects of our civilisation? Is it a way to have an impact? Like the invention of a new weapon, movement in new territories and the development of agriculture, language is more than just expression. It is a tool. We collaboratively advance our civilisation and in order to do this, we must work together. Out of those languages, how many of them, have answers to concepts and problems we struggle with, whether they be philosophical, artistic or scientific? How do we learn?
The process of learning a language in itself, is beneficial, aside from any use it may have when in practice. Research has revealed that learning a second language as an infant helps children develop a higher IQ, in a very similar way that learning a musical instrument does. But what are the benefits of learning a language as an adult? One study concluded that bilingual adults showed Alzheimer's symptoms 5-6 years later than people who only spoke one language. Learning a new skill is good for wellbeing, and learning a language specifically, improves ability to multitask, make lists and focus.
With a new language, you can impart positive feelings to someone who may be outside your community. You can learn about other cultures and you can bond with new people. So, even if it’s just a few words, what language could you pick up now?
Author: Anna-Maria Amato