Share Your Passions
We all know that learning a language is a very rewarding experience. It can help you gain a deep insight into another person’s culture, beer, literature, food, politics, wine, and social life. Yet, on a personal level, it can also be a rather unrewarding learning experience. Native speakers talk very fast, and often use expressions never found in academic textbooks. Language learners can therefore find themselves lost in conversations with native speakers, and even bashing their head against their laptops when listening to the radio.
This doesn’t sound inspirational, but it’s a confidence hurdle that must be addressed by so many language learners, including myself last year. The key phrase to learn for any language is, ‘could you speak a tad bit slower, please?’ While this question seems very embarrassing to ask, and is not helpful for all real-life contexts, it makes the entire experience abroad more enjoyable.
Language is a tool of communication, aiming to produce one thing: an idea. Unfortunately, we language students get too caught up on the idea of making friends and socialising to use a language for the sake of language. However, you can really learn to enjoy your time amongst native speakers by simply sharing ideas and passions.
During my stay at Université Lyon 2, I have made a friend who wanted talk about theatre. Great! I have another friend who likes sightseeing – not something most other locals do in their own city. And, while one flatmate is into his politics, another likes catching up on general life. In casual conversation, there’s no need to impress anyone by speaking fast and perfectly, or by following fast dialogue. By finding common interests with another person, all those years of hard studying pay off.
Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once said: ‘The limits of my language are the limits of my world.’ By learning to connect with people in a second language, then, a whole new world of communication will open up to you.
Written by Tom Shacklock
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham