Learning Russian has been the most rewarding experience of my life. It’s about so much more than just the language though. I’ve learned that through hard work and consistent effort I can accomplish anything I set my mind too. That’s an incredibly powerful feeling, and it’s going to serve me for the rest of my life. Here are a few other things I’ve noticed about learning a second language, and some of the benefits that you may find on your own journey to fluency.
Learning a Second Language Teaches You..
How to Learn. Seriously though, people just aren’t that good at learning. Loads of people never work hard enough to get a decent result, or they expend all their energy in the wrong areas. They focus on the details instead of looking at the big picture. When you learn a language you figure out pretty quick that you can know words but not understand the meaning. To get past that you have to think creatively and study with a purpose. Once you figure out how to do this you can apply it to any new skill you want to learn.
That persistence is instrumental to success. The first couple of hundred hours of learning a language kind of suck. You can’t understand movies, music, jokes or regular conversation. This is a bitch, but the unshakable truth is that if you don’t stick it out you WILL NEVER learn to speak another language. I wonder, when people give up in the beginning, do they fully realize that they’re giving up any possibility of ever becoming fluent? Do they realize what’s at stake? In order to succeed anywhere in life you need persistence.
About a different culture. I’ve written about this before and I’ll write about it again. When you learn a second language you get to learn about a new lifestyle. Customs, beliefs, holidays, names, food, history, and so on. You can read about this in a book or watch a movie, but when you experience it through the language, it’s different story.
About your own language. Without a second language to compare English against you literally cannot draw a comparison. It’s like if the only cars on the road were Ladas, you’d swear it was the best car ever made. In reality, a better illustration of a Lada’s value is this joke.
How do you double the value of a Lada?
Fill it up with gas.
I’m not saying that any language is better than another one. Although Pirahã (the hardest language in the world) does seem to be rather unnecessary. What I’m saying is that without a comparison, you’ll never be able to fully understand the upsides and downsides of English (or whatever your native language is).
That learning is forever. I’ve learned more in the last 14 months then I learned in the last eight years of school. Even though I’ve probably spent 1,000 hours studying Russian by this point, I’ve only just scratched the surface. I realize that I can study this language for the rest of my life and I’ll die with a book of material still waiting to be learned.
I think that most people who read my blog understand that you don’t stop learning after school gets out. If you already get this, a second language can really help you to cement this idea in your head. It’s why I’m shifting gears. Realizing now that I could easily study Russian forever, I’ve decided to invest my energy elsewhere and learn German. I think it will have more practical applications for me, and I’ll be able to talk to my Grandma in her native tongue. I’m looking forward to that day so much! But until then, I’ll remain a bilingual American. Which in it’s own right is fairly impressive. There aren’t a lot of us out there. So I’ll end this post with a video I shot the other day of me speaking in Russian. Check out my book to see how you can learn to do the same.
The second you stop learning is the second you die. Are there any other benefits of learning a second language that I missed, anything you want to add?