One could say I’m not a natural at languages – the friend I used to copy in German class would probably vouch for this. A complete lack of motivation coupled with major foreign language speaking anxiety (it’s a thing) was not a good mix when it came to GCSE German.
So why now at 23? The desire to learn Hungarian came about thanks to three Hungarians wandering into my life during university. The language was like nothing I had heard before, in fact it’s pretty much in a little language pool of its own with the closest dialect being Finnish (they share about 5 words). It’s also the second hardest language to learn for native English speakers, inconvenient I know – why couldn’t my uni friends at least have been French!
I started out, like many, using Duolingo. Duolingo is fine if you want to learn sentences such as ‘do you hear those apples?’ or a favourite of mine ‘the kindergarten teacher has lunch and sneezes’ – but these weren’t really doing it for me.
Fast forward a couple of years and a few awkward ‘meeting-the-grandparents-where-neither-of-you-speak-the-each-other’s-language’ exchanges later and I have finally signed up for a language course at the University of Westminster. I was on a mission to come out of my shell, meet new people and see what this brain of mine could do.
So, January BC (before corona) came around and I found myself in a room full of like-minded people. I was definitely thrown in at the deep end but found this to be significant in my (for want of a better word) – journey. Don’t get me wrong, there are often times where I want the ground to open up and swallow me whole (the anxiety-induced sweat patches are no joke) but still I somehow manage to carry on – my mother’s advice ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ swirling around in my mind.
My opinion surrounding language learning has done a complete flip on its head. Being a native English speaker meant that I could fare pretty well in other countries on holiday and felt I had no convincing reasons to acquire another language. But recently I have come to learn the beauty in other languages and the desire to LEARN THEM ALL is pretty strong of late.
Language goes hand-in-hand with culture – you cannot truly understand one without the other and I think that is inherently important in stepping out of one’s own bubble and understanding more of the world. This is especially important in the creative and marketing industry where we are constantly striving to get a greater awareness and understanding of the consumer, which in turn allows us to communicate in a more effective way.
But really, I am not writing this to tell you to go out and learn a language; it’s more about doing something that scares you and doing it for yourself, whether this be big or small. It’s about recognising that the reason you may have failed earlier wasn’t because you physically weren’t able to do it but rather that the setting or situation wasn’t right – in my case at least. And ultimately, it’s not about being the best, it’s about saying you genuinely gave it your all and who knows, tiny steps may lead you to bigger and better things!