The Importance of Learning a Second Language

I’ve been teaching English now for 11 years. I never dreamt of becoming an English teacher as I was growing up. No, it happened quite by chance on my journey. Having the pleasure of travelling for 12 years now, and living on different continents, in different countries, the thing that has resonated with me the most, is how language is so integral to who we are. Not just as individuals, but as communities, cultures, people and societies.

Language is completely ingrained in our psyche. You could leave your native country for 20 years, and yet, your language would still dictate how you think, how you learn. There is something about language, especially a second language, that forms a way of feeling, of being. When acquiring a new language, one not only gets to expand knowledge and to switch on a different part of the brain, but to fundamentally start to understand how a whole nation thinks. Pretty amazing isn’t it?

Learning a new language could be compared to climbing Everest, it's hard work and seemingly endless. Some days you feel like you’re at Everest base camp, not 100% capable, but the summit is within your reach. Then other days, you feel like a tiny spot on the landscape, looking up into the clouds and thinking ‘this is completely impossible’. This is the daily struggle of learning a language, my advice would be to remember that you are on a journey, and rather than looking at the summit, appreciate where you are now and thank yourself for all the time you've invested.

Learning English takes dedication. By 'dedication' I mean a little piece of your life needs to be put to one side, consistently, daily, for a few years. If you can spare 4 hours a day, fantastic! But if not, 20 minutes per day is enough. The key is to be consistent. Technology has smiled upon us language learners, and the tools are at your fingertips. Listen to a British radio station on your way to work (BBC Radio app). Absorb the speed, the intonation, the 'sing song' of the British accent. Even if you don't understand everything said, your subconscious is acquiring new information. Watch British movies or TV shows. First with subtitles in your own language (if intermediate),  moving onto English subtitles, then watching it without. You could read the news in English online every morning, movie (with subtitles) when you get home, read the news in English in the mornings. Whatever it takes to make this English-language relationship blossom, just do it.

I have the pleasure of speaking with English learners every day. I feel completely blessed to speak with a child from Egypt, a few businessmen from Japan, a fantastic Italian-anglophile, and a Polish man who is such an avid reader, that he regularly teaches me new vocabulary and phrases, there are many more. But each learner has their own objectives in mind, each learner has love for the language, and each learner has my utmost respect and admiration for what they have already achieved, and what they will achieve in the future.

I wish you well on your future relationship with the English language. Sometimes she can be a bitch, and sometimes she can be the most beautiful partner. Just remember, this is a journey, and the climb is almost as pleasurable as getting to the top.

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