Learning languages has become quite a controversial topic in the U.K. recently, since Brexit negotiations began. In the last five years, there has been a 19% drop in the take up of language GCSEs, fewer primary schools are teaching languages and motivation, in general, has seen a downturn.
We are passionate about reversing these figures and emphasising why language learning is so important and should not be neglected. So, this week, Mission Translate wanted to address the topic directly through our blog.
Learning languages is easier today than ever. There are many apps that deliver courses on numerous languages and provide on the spot translation, giving the support you need when trying to make sense of another linguistic world.
However, learning a language just to get by on our holiday (which unfortunately today many people neglect to even do that!) should not be the sole driving factor for bilingualism. Learning a language is not just about being able to order a ham and cheese toastie, whilst in a bar in the south of France. Becoming fluent in a language gives you so much more. And equally our failure to learn languages means we are losing so much.
Learning a language gives you a connection to a whole new culture. It gives you an understanding of how another group of people view the world differently; their identity and their social values. A different culture with a new spectrum of words has another way of understanding life. This is illustrated when we come across untranslatable words; words that another culture has given to a concept that we just haven’t recognised in our world.
Here are a couple of our favourite ‘untranslatables’
Jayus (Indonesian): This word describes a joke that is so poorly told that you cannot help but laugh!
Komorebi (Japanese): This is a lovely word, describing the dabbled light that appears when the sunlight shines through the trees.
Fernweh (German): This is a feeling of homesickness for a place that you have never been to. This could also be described as wanderlust or a craving for travel.
By learning a language and gaining an understanding of a culture, our relationships with other nations strengthen. It removes barriers and dissolves the feeling of separation; vital for us to function effectively as a nation in this global environment.
Some may believe this is not needed, seeing English as the lingua franca across the world, but without access to other peoples’ languages, there is a part of their society that remains out of our reach. We may be able to communicate on a surface level, but there remains a lack of true understanding.
Without this understanding, we cannot appreciate the wisdom from their ancestors. We do not have full access to their stories, poems and philosophies. We miss out on their scientific discoveries, their mathematical theorems and the visions for the future.
Perhaps you can order ‘un café au lait’ on your travels, but without real language learning, other nations may as well be on another planet, as they are that far removed.
Inspired to learn a language? Get in contact with Mission Translate and we can provide you with a list of helpful resources.
By Lorna Paice