'Languages are important', 'I know they’re hard but don’t give up!', 'they’ll help you in life'.
I was told these words of encouragement over and over again. I would always roll my eyes, ignore them and continue to stress over the past and future tense and any numbers over twenty.
I have studied languages from a young age. I began learning Greek aged 10, when my family and I moved there for 2 years. At first it was difficult and I had no idea whether I would be able to learn the language and use it productively, but eventually it started to make sense. Slowly, very slowly, I started to get an immense sense of pride from using words and phrases I had learnt, overhearing conversations and (almost) understanding everything that was said.
Eight years later I started university back in England, where I met one of my best friends. Guess how we became best friends? She spoke Greek as a second language, I spoke Greek as a second language, that was our conversation starter. We went for coffee and from that moment we were inseparable. I was always told I would meet people through languages and it would open up doors for me, and that was one of the first moments where I believed it. Sometimes it comes down to something small like that, to make you realise what you’re doing is 100% worth it.
I was encouraged by family to continue on the language path since I started learning at 10 years old, so I took up German and it was really challenging. There were a lot of times I thought I was going to give up, but I am so glad I didn’t; when I was 18, I didn’t get into the university I wanted, or get to study the course I wanted, I had no idea what I was going to do. I changed my plan and applied to go to the University of Manchester instead, to study Spanish. I had never studied Spanish before; they saw that I studied Greek and German and offered me a place! Now I am in Spain for a year having an amazing time and enjoying the sunshine, working as an English language assistant in a lovely little primary school.
It was a wonderful chain of events; if I had ignored everybody who encouraged me to study languages, gave up when it was hard and didn’t practise, I would not be doing what I am doing right now, and my life would be totally different. I’m glad I listened.
My advice: it’s true, languages are important, immerse yourself in them, work hard and enjoy the benefits (because there are a lot!).
Do you think learning languages is important?