What is it like to learn a new language?

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I have had a lot of people ask me lately, what is it like to learn a new language? For the past three weeks, I have embarked on the journey of learning French. The last time I learned a language “from scratch” was in seventh grade Spanish class. To be honest, I was a little nervous about whether I was still capable of learning a new language. I have always heard that it is easier for children to learn languages, and it becomes more challenging as we grow older. Regardless, I decided that I have always wanted to study the French language and culture, so I decided to challenge myself in my international MBA program.

What have I learned from studying a new language?

I’ve described to my loved ones that I feel like a baby. I am absorbing every word I hear and every sentence I read. I smile when I recognize French words that people say or write. Just like a baby, I’m starting to “coo,” or say a few words and phrases here and there. Soon I am confident I will be able to say full expressions. The advantage of being an adult, though, is that I can learn to write quickly. I have been able to memorize vocabulary and grammar in order to write brief letters and blog posts. I am looking forward to the day that I can speak with correct grammar and vocabulary without having to write!

I am also reminded the importance of patience in my studies. Learning a language requires repetition and there is no getting around the time required to study. Every homework assignment helps with comprehension and every test ensure that I am continuing to develop my language skills.

The most interesting aspect is that learning a language teaches us culture simultaneously. As a travel bug and culture enthusiast, it has been very interesting to learn about French culture while studying the French language. One-quarter of my heritage is French, so I have enjoyed being able to understand why some of my family traditions occur as they do. For example, I learned that Christmas Eve is the most significant time for the French to celebrate Christmas, which explains why my French family celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve (rather than Christmas Day). The deeper cultural understanding help us be more accepting of and interested in the diversity in our world.

Overall, my French language studies have been a positive experience so far. I am relieved to know that I am capable of learning a new language again and excelling in class!  I look forward to applying my new language and cultural knowledge when I study in Paris next winter.

For all inspirNational readers – don’t be intimidated by learning a new language. It is one of the most rewarding experiences that our lifelong education can provide us!

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