I grew up in an English-speaking household.
As a kid, it was the only language I was exposed to. School was taught only in English and I really didn’t know enough about the world to understand that there were other languages.
My experience with learning a new language started once I hit sixth grade.
For my middle school, choosing a new language was a requirement. Our options were either Spanish or French. I, knowing that the French students would get to go on a field trip, immediately picked the latter.
From that point on, language became an integral part of my education.
Since we’ve become more globalized, schools have embraced this idea of teaching a second language to their students. Whether it’s by having a language requirement in middle school or simply requesting students take AP language classes in high school, it’s become a prominent aspect of public education. A school in Bedford Hills, N.Y. (and some others) have even implemented an immersion program so kids in kindergarten would be more exposed.
But as I grew older and got busy with difficult high school classes, I found it intriguing how many of my classmates decided to stop taking a language altogether.
I definitely understood their reasoning – a lot of the time it was because they simply couldn’t fit it in their schedule, and it would only stress them out. It made me consider why I was still taking a language, in spite of the time commitment.
I genuinely enjoyed learning French. I don’t know why I loved it so much, but everything about the language and French culture excited me. Studying for French never felt like a chore. I quickly realized how grateful I’d been for picking French in sixth grade, even if my reasons back then were silly.
I quickly realized how grateful I’d been for picking French in sixth grade, even if my reasons back then were silly.
Now, looking back at my time learning French, I realize just how helpful it was for me. Even though I don’t currently live in a place where French is commonly spoken, I’ve gained a better understand of language as a whole. I feel like I’m in on this secret where if someone started saying something in French I’d know, along with all the other French-speaking people in the vicinity. Whenever I hear someone say a short French phrase on TV or online, I get super excited because I understand it.
It’s helped me comprehend the world better and truly feel connected to my surroundings. Plus, it’s fun to show off my skills on vacations to French-speaking parts of Canada.
It can be difficult keeping up with a language. I know this for a fact. Even after having taken French for nearly a decade, I still have trouble speaking fluently. It’s been a while since I took classes, and I sometimes fear losing my ability to speak well. It’s hard to pinpoint what resources will be most useful for language-learning. And, again, it’s hard to find the time.
Recently, I faced many of these barriers when I decided to try something new. Because of the benefits of learning French, I wanted to learn a third language: Spanish. It was a challenge I was ready to accept that would broaden my horizons. I downloaded the app Duolingo on my phone and started going through the practices.
I was immediately faced with plenty of obstacles that anyone who tries learning a new language will face. First, the app was super helpful, but it wasn’t as immersive as a class experience. I’d often get distracted or forget certain words. Sometimes, I’d cheat and look answers up online so I wouldn’t lose a heart (you’re only granted a certain number of hearts per day). Most of all, I had trouble remembering to check in on a daily basis. I’m not doing much better now – because of my recent stress, I’ve barely made time for my practice on Duolingo.
All of this was very discouraging. The truth is, learning a language isn’t easy. You’re literally trying to teach yourself how to speak and write all over again. It’s especially difficult if you’re being taught in a way that doesn’t mesh well with how you like to learn.
It’s important to push past these bumps in the road. To keep trying with a language, even if it seems impossible.
Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of how you’re learning rather than what you’re learning. Don’t give up on a second language; the benefits of learning one are endless.
Being multilingual allows you to connect with our changing world and society. More than that, if you genuinely are passionate about speaking another language, you should follow through and see where it leads you.
Learning anything is hard. But sometimes, the benefits outweigh the costs. I know that I’m going to keep trying to learn a third language, even if it does mean interrupting my schedule for it. Remember not to give up, even if the road ahead is filled with potholes – the result is worth the wait.