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The pleasure of learning languages

by Carlos Carrion Torres - Vitoria ES - Brazil

Advantages of English

Nowadays at the beginning of 21st century, in media and computer era, being a native English speaker presents a bunch of obvious advantages. Those who grow up speaking English can be understood almost everywhere in the world among scholars and educated people. English is world media language, the speech of cinema, TV shows, pop music and computers. It is also the most important language for politics, sports, science and newspapers. Everywhere in civilized world people must to know the pronunciation of many English words, names of places and people, titles of songs and so on. The use of English language so is widely spread all over the world that nobody can deny that English is the true Esperanto, the actual Universal Language.

Other languages

However, there are, inspite of and also as a consequence of the dominance of English, some other quite opposite advantages to people whose mother tongue is not English. Anyone, especially scholars, whose native language is not English must learn at least a little English to be connected with the world. That necessity, as any need for learning, is indeed a challenge and so an intellectual advantage. Learning English can be the start of the opening of people's minds to the importance and also the pleasure of foreign language learning.

The advantages that result for this almost primary necessity (learning English) are still greater when one's mother tongue doesn't have Germanic roots. As a result of fewer similarities between languages, efforts to learn English represent greater challenges, increasing intelectual curiosity, providing more pleasure in the discovery of new concepts and ideas. Thinking that way, having a native language that without Indo-European roots can be still better, because when people learn English they must go beyond the limits of they strict concepts of grammar, sentences structure, sounds, pronunciation, direction of writing, declensions, syllabic concepts, verbs conjugation, plurals and so on.

Other alphabets

Those whose a mother tongue that uses an alphabet other than Latin enjoy yet greater advantages. To use computers, to connect to internet addresses, to send email, one needs to know the Latin alphabet. Latin characters are always present, even together with other alphabets, in most computer and cell phone keyboards around the world. All internet sites and email addresses currently use only the Latin alphabet. This forces educated people who use computers to have at least a little knowledge of the Latin alphabet. People who must learn another alphabet go beyond the sounds of their mother tongue. Such person will realize, for example, that there are some sounds that may be represented by different, unfamiliar letters.

Even considering that most of the words in European languages with either simple or sophisticated meanings, are monosyllabic or bisyllabic, there is some pattern that confirms that nouns for well known things are generally shorter.

Personal experience

I myself felt the advantages discussed above when I started trying to learn a little Russian. We, Brazilians, Portuguese speakers, learn English from elementary school, of course, and later sometimes Spanish and French. However, learning those three languages keeps us still inside the limits of very similar languages - plurals with "s" and similar sentences structure. Then, when we decide to learn something about Italian and German, we can realize that there are plurals without the use of "s", a surprise!

Study of Latin teaches us about declensions, but Russian, also with declensions and "no s" plurals, but with a different, Cyrillic, alphabet, represented to me the greatest impact. First, Russian has 10 vowels. OK, it is acceptable, those 10 vowels are the same as ours plus some diphthongs with "i". But they do have 26 consonants! Yes, it was a surprise for me to realize that they may need and use 6 consonants more than we do. And in that case I was dealing with an alphabet that is very similar to ours, if compared with most of Asian alphabets, as examples. By that time I have realized how people's minds could get opened by learning languages that use other very different alphabet like Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Thai, Korean, Arabic, Hebrew and others.

Of course, there are other reasons to stimulate languages learning, as, for example, geography. People in large countries or areas with one main sole language, as Brazil, USA, China, European Russia, the whole of Spanish speaking countries in Latin America, are less stimulated to know other languages. But in European and Asian countries with not so large areas, with many neighbor nations with different languages it is quite an urgent necessity to learn other languages.

To summarize, to non-English speakers the almost universal necessity of English learning, is a leading advantage, because it stimulates scholars to learn at least that foreign language. That may stimulate them to learn another, then maybe another and so on. The pleasure of learning languages is something helps persons to open their minds to languages diversity and so to diversity in general

Articles by Carlos Carrion Torres

Comparação Português e Castelhano
English as a Universal Language
Língua Estrangeira para Lusófonos
Short words, basic ideas
The pleasure of learning languages