Within the UK there is a distinct lack of fondness for learning other languages. I first noticed this when travelling before starting university; everyone I met, who wasn’t negatively speaking English were able to converse. Compared to this, I spoke basic French after having been forcefully taught it in school. I have always wondered why this is.
It was Charlemagne who said, “To know two languages is to possess a second soul”. There is a German proverb “Je mehr Sprachen du kanst, desto mehr Mensch du bist” which means ‘the more languages you know, the more you are a human being’. This is almost an exact copy of a Czech proverb Kolik jazyků znáš, tolikrát jsi člověkem. Perhaps it is a result of cultural differences, but clearly, some value speaking more than one language has more than one benefit.
My experience with languages began in school, l learning French. which I took until A-level. I really enjoyed it, but I never saw it being useful to me (how native). When I went travelling I befriended with some French travellers, able to join in conversations – although I needed a lot of help opened a new world for me. Following this, when I started dating a Spaniard and embraced learning Spanish. Using Duo-lingo, online tutorials and Spanish news I have begun to develop my understanding to be able to hold a light conversation and I continue to work on it.
As my Spanish progressed, I also noticed an increase in my short-term memory and ability in class, which I do think was related. Can learning languages stop us from entering a room and forgetting why we entered?
I also found out Al Maktoum, an Arabic College in Dundee offered part-time evening classes in Arabic, costing £60 for 12 weeks (student concession – £40). I started this class in January and have so far learned the alphabet, numbers and basic greetings. It is a beautiful language, so very different from English. The biggest difference being reading right to left, which as a left hander I, at last feel some affinity for the layout of the written word. Experiencing Arabic, I now see all language as a code, some codes are affiliated and others are more diverse. Are people’s thoughts are also coded differently? Arabic has a code very different from European languages so while my progress with this language is much slower than Spanish, I aim to continue my classes next semester.
For me, learning languages has become very important, as I aim to work internationally after graduation. I recommend everyone to take up a language during the university as employers love it. In my last interview for a summer placement, the interviewers were particularly interested and impressed with my taking an Arabic class; it’s oh so tempting to shrink out world to our course, flatmates, hobbies and social life, employers seek agile communicators who see the world outside campus.