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Learning a New Language - The Creativity and Necessity

“To speak a language is to take on a world, a culture. . .” wrote Frantz Fanon, the great intellectual. And he was right. As the world is shrinking, our identities are multiplying – we are multinational in our upbringing, education and influences. Language is a prominent condition of this socio – cultural evolution. So what does it mean to be multi-lingual and how can we acquire new languages, new worlds, new cultures? An introduction.
BY Shirsho Dasgupta |   09-02-2015

Multilingualism, by definition, means a person who can speak, read or write at least 2 or more languages. It is an impressive skill, often learned from a very early stage.  Learning a language is not an easy endeavor. It takes practice, courage, skill, and most of all, commitment towards the language. That is why those who achieve it are considered to be among the great minds of a  generation. Now, that is not farfetched at all. Learning a language is not an easy task if taken lightly, but it is easy if one puts his/her mind into it.  There are certainly a lot of pros in learning a new language, some of which will be discussed later in this piece. But firstly, it should be discussed why learning a language other than the native one is always a good idea.

Language is, and always has been viewed as a representation of the human being; from an individual human psyche to the representation of the whole society. A new language opens up a new world of knowledge with the help of its literature, culture, people, etc. Putting aside the fact that it helps one's career, learning a new language always opens one's mind to another dimension. So to sum it up, a new language means a new life.

Now that the creative part has been covered, the important part that remains for discussion is - how to learn a new language. Every language in this world has a certain number of things in common, and they are similar to each other in such a way that one might think they came from the same language (that part is true - Proto Indo European). Every language has speech sounds, words, phrases, sentences, a grammar and plenty of discourses- textual or verbal. Almost 90% of the phonemes (speech sounds) of all the languages are same. If one has to learn a new language, that person should go back to his early days and ponder upon how he learned the native language in the first place. A simple answer is learning the grammar, making mistakes and learning from the mistakes. In this case, the person has to follow the same routine, except he is conscious this time. For the record, learning a new language in a classroom is always better since there is a chance of interacting with peers.

For the purpose of lucidity, the process of learning a language is as follows:

  1. First, learn new words, as many and as common as possible, and recite them. It takes a lot of time to learn, translate, and produce the same word in a relevant context, and the process of remembering is not that easy. But once mastered, it can be called up, and used in an instant.

  2. Next, comes learning new cognates of words of the native language in the new language. With that process, it is easier to remember newer words. Basic words will be of great help, like anatomical parts of human body, or common household stuff, or domestic animals, birds, reptiles, etc.

  3. After words, come phrases and sentences. Learning common statements which are used every day is a good way to build up the memory of learning new cognates and using them in  practical life. It can start from basic statements like 'How are you?' or 'Where is the market?' or even, 'Would like to go out on a date with me?' The more one practices, the more he/she gets a hold of the new language.

  4. Learning a language is like practicing math.  A person should practice reciting and memorizing at least 40 words every day. He/she should also try to learn new phrases and statements, as well as memorizing the old ones, whenever there’s a chance.

  5. The harder part is interacting.  A person gains more fluency in a language by using it in practical situations with another person who is well versed in that language. But one cannot expect to immediately interact with another person in a foreign language in the latter’s native country. Either it can be done in a foreign land or, the easiest way is in places where the language is taught in a classroom. In Language Teaching, it is called the Direct Method of learning.

  6. Finally, after learning the words and syntax structure, if a person is able to make new sentences, then he should move on to reading the literature of that language. But it does not have to be books like Gorky’s in German or Maupassant’s in French. Basic children’s storybooks are the best place to start. This way, one can be easily versed in the discourse of that particular language.
These are some simple steps of learning a new language, like an Idiot’s Guide, if one may say so. But, to learn a new language, one must always go to an expert, or enroll himself at a language learning facility. If learned from an early age, a new language can also boost one's career. It is highly desirable to learn and speak multiple languages, and also highly lucrative. Some of the best career choices would be – working as an interpreter in foreign embassies, or as a translator in public or private sectors.

The need for hiring a foreign language expert is greater in business and corporate sectors these days. But putting aside money and career, it is always great to learn a new language because it opens up a new world filled with treasure, a treasure that can only be felt through the heart and the mind.

 And aren't those the ones to cherish!
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