For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be bi-lingual. My friends and family will openly testify that over the years I’ve had my fair share of half-assed attempts at learning another language, and to this day I’m still very much mono-lingual.
I’ve tried French, Japanese and Mandarin, but through all my blasted half-assery I’ve been plagued by one perpetual question “which is the right language to learn?”. The answer will be different for everyone, and I’ve arrived at many different conclusions, but I’m sure many of us get into it for the same reasons.
The first language I tried was French (and I’ve tried it several times since!). I would have been about 15 years old and I remember thinking how sexy and upper class it would make me once I became fluent. While it will give you an inherent credibility when making a selection from the wine list at your favorite French restaurant, in my later years of high school I began to get very into Japanese culture and decided to switch to Japanese.
I should explain that when I say I was getting “very into in Japanese culture”, I mean “I played a lot of video games, watched a lot of manga, drew a lot of Japanese style cartoons, became interested in technology and ate a lot of sushi”. I still do all those things (a lot!) but as I finished high school and started university I began to become more business minded, which is when I started Mandarin.
Mandarin, I’d been told, was a very good language to know if you planned on being a businessman – which I did. Many more people spoke it than French or Japanese and dealing with China had become an essential part of big business, so it would look great on a resume. I don’t know if it was because the teacher on the podcast I had sounded like a twat, or that I couldn’t get the hang of the different tones and always ended up saying “you filthy giraffe’s bollocks!” when I actually meant “Can I have the bill please?”, but my Mandarin stint was short lived.
It’s feels like an age since I started university, but there’s still a voice in the back of my mind that yells in a distant dialect “Learn a language!”
The next time I learn a language it won’t be by my half-assed podcast, it will be through proper tuition and dedication. The question still remains though, “which is the right language to learn?”