Title: The Magic of Learning a New Language
Abstract: Have you ever tried learning a new language? Studying in Europe with students from all over the world has encouraged me to learn many different languages. I have made many new friends along the way and learned how to see the world in a different way. I promise you can learn a new language too – especially while you are young!
Salut (saa-lu) my friends! It’s been quite long since we last talked, hasn’t it? Time is passing by very fast here in Menton. I’ve been in France for almost four months already! During this time, I’ve learned a lot about life in Europe and the languages here. Can you imagine living in a country among people that do not speak your native language?
Before coming to France, I knew some basic French, but I wasn’t comfortable speaking it. I would make a lot of mistakes, especially with grammar. Although it has been difficult to become better at speaking French, I have tried my hardest and have learned a lot! Do you know any languages besides English? Are you learning a new language in school, or would you like to in the future?
If you are learning another language, you might agree with me that learning any new language is not easy. The new alphabet, vocabulary words and grammar rules can sometimes give us all a massive headache! Although the French language is similar to English in many ways, it is also very different. French words, for example, have many “extra” letters that aren’t pronounced! Although the words for “how are you?” in French are written “comment ça va,” you would pronounce these as “coh-ma sah vah.” So, for example, you don’t hear the letter ‘t’ in the word comment. Does this sound familiar to some English rules?
French also has many different verb tenses that are difficult for English speakers to notice (at first). The imparfait (am-pah-fay) tense in French is used to describe habits you used to do in the past that haven’t been finished. To say “I ate a sandwich today,” for example, you would say “J’ai mangé un sandwich aujourd’hui” (zhay manzhay uh sahd-weesh oh-zhor-d-wee). But to say “I ate a sandwhich every day when I was young,” you would say “Je mangeais un sandwich tous les jours quand j’étais jeune” (zhe manzhay uh sahd-weesh too lay zhoor kah zhe-tay zhun). While looking at the verb “to eat” in French – manger (mah-zher) – in the two sentences, can you tell the difference in how they are spelled and pronounced?
For me, the most difficult part about learning French has been practicing it. I expected myself to practice the language a lot more than I have been, but because my university has English and French speakers in different programs, it is difficult to practice French outside of your classes. Unfortunately, Francophones (people who speak the French language) and Anglophones (English speakers) don’t mix very often. However, I have been able to increase my understanding of French by watching the news, reading books, listening to lectures and conversations and even by reading signs around the city.
Fortunately, I have also been able to practice other languages while living in Europe. My university is very diverse, and has students coming from countries like Germany, Lithuania, Egypt, Lebanon and Morocco. I am able to learn some German while hanging out with German friends. I can practice Arabic with my Egyptian, Lebanese and Moroccan friends. I also loved learning some Italian and Turkish while travelling around Italy and Turkey!
One of the best things about studying abroad is learning about another way of communicating with others. Nelson Mandela (the former president of South Africa) said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” When I make an effort to talk to my Arab, French, Italian or Turkish friends in their own language, I feel as if our friendship grows faster by building a stronger connection. Have you ever tried to speak to your friends in their mother language? How did you feel? How do you think you made them feel?
Although I do not frequently speak my native language Gujurati (goo-ja-ra-tee) because there aren’t many native speakers around me, I still get a special feeling when speaking it with my family and relatives. This feeling is special because it reminds me of being at home in Tanzania and speaking with my grandparents and other family members. When I speak in my native language, I still feel at home and comfortable. I was very happy to find Gujurati speakers here in France and feel happy while being with them. How do you feel when you speak in your native language with someone else? If your native language is English, how do you feel when you talk with your parents and siblings? Do you have a different way of talking with your family and your friends or with people that you don’t know very well?
I remember moving from Tanzania to the United States when I was eight years old and experiencing many new things. The English language, however, was not new to me. In my school in Tanzania, we were instructed to speak only English. However, it was still difficult to learn about American slang and new words that are used in the United States that I didn’t know about when we moved. By making friends and speaking with them, I really improved my English. I also enjoyed watching educational shows on television like Sesame Street. I really appreciated my teachers and friends more than anything for helping me with my English.
Do you speak another language, or want to learn a new one? To me, learning a new language is a wonderful chance to learn about another culture and find new friends. Learning another language helps you see the world in a different way. You can watch movies or television shows in a different language, or even read simple books or signs in the new language. You can also ask a friend that speaks that language to help you learn it. My favorite way to practice a new language is to listen to music in it! Don’t be discouraged by how difficult a language can be – if you work hard enough, you will be able to understand more and more each day.
If you speak another language already, don’t forget it! I used to be fluent in Swahili when I lived in Tanzania, but because I couldn’t practice it very often in the United States, I have difficulty understanding it now. Practice the languages you speak and offer to teach it to a friend. You’ll be surprised by how many new friends you’ll make just by learning a few words in a new language!