I have always struggled with learning a language. Let me elaborate on my incompetence, I went to a language school for 5 years and all I can remember is “Ich bin im ein kino”. I guess my younger naïve or accidently ignorant self, thought why do I need to learn another language, I know English. It’s served me well so far.
But as I grew older and wiser my little bubble grew. My interest in travel and different cultures also expanded. When I travelled around Europe just knowing English didn’t cut it. It was the key that I had relied on all my life, now it failed to unlock the invisible doors in front of me. I was confined to the tourist traps and eating dishes I recognised; instead of chatting to locals and going off the beaten track. My previous flatmate could speak Cantonese, I was so fascinated with his ability to speak another language I’d ask him to translate strangers in the street. I clearly remember him running out of patience and declaring “All they are talking about is cutlery!” Whenever he switched from English to Cantonese, then back, it seemed like a superpower to me. A magical skill that only a chosen few of us will ever obtain (unless I got bite by a bilingual spider).
Years later wandering around an Oxfam charity shop I found a book called Fluent in 3 Months by Benny Lewis. The book was signed by Benny, with a picture of a three-leaf clover and a nudge of encouragement “Ganbatte”, Japanese for do your best! I’ll talk about Benny and his approach to learning languages in later posts but for now the important thing is the book persuaded me that learning a second language was possible.
However, I spent the next 2 years starting, stopping and swapping my target language until now. I have failed every language because of my warped motivation. Wouldn’t I look cool if I could speak X, that would be good for my job is I could speak X. These languages never took off for me. I then asked myself which country are you most interested in? The true answer was China.
I have always found China fascinating. From Ancient China to Pop culture, endangered species such as the red and giant panda, the food, the beautiful written language, the sheer size of China and number of it’s wonderful people. I now understand that learning a language is more about being able to dive into a culture at a deeper level. So, thank you for joining me on my journey and hopefully I can drip-feed my knowledge back to you. I will leave you with this quote and I implore you act upon it today: Wherever you go, go with all your heart – Confucius.
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