For the love of languages

by Ane du Preez

June 2021

“A different language is a different vision of life” – Frederico Fellini

I wrote this post to inspire others learning languages and if you are not interested in learning languages that is okay too then just embrace the language/s that you already know.

Here is an inspiring story that I came across about a year ago, it taught me that no matter what anything is possible.

(1) Cambodian Boy Who Speaks 16 Languages’ Life Now, 2 Years After Viral Video – YouTube

I always loved languages, well I only realized in my adulthood really but I listened a lot of French and Spanish music in my teens and perhaps that’s where it has started. I remember sitting in Wilderness at my grandparents house; they had the most interesting stories. They loved traveling and while they were cooking or making pizzas, we usually listened to Andrea Bocelli or just classical music and sometimes country music. I am fascinated about learning about other languages and other cultures and traditions. I’ve met people from all over the globe, India, England, Bhutan, Australia, Myanmar, Thailand, Scotland and I am grateful for that.

I think if people listen more the world would be a different place. My grandmother taught Dutch at one of the universities in South-Africa.

I lived in four different countries: England (1 year), Scotland (1 year), Australia (1 year) and Thailand (4 years). You can’t compare these countries but I loved England’s’ countryside but an overall picture (work, weather, people, culture I definitely would choose Thailand. There is just something magical about East Asia and yes it wasn’t easy in the beginning because I couldn’t speak the language but I’ve learned a lot through my experiences and the people I’ve met. I love traveling even if its local, I will never get sick of that.

If you think about it language is part of who we are and a language doesn’t necessary have to be through words but it can be a language through gestures, writing, through music even animals have their own language. It all tells a story and it has a deeper meaning than we sometime realizes.

My mother tongue is Afrikaans. Its similar to Dutch if you didn’t know that and I still get goosebumps every time I hear it even if its just a song. My parents always taught us never forget where you came from and I might have an accent as we all do but I don’t have a typical Australian, British or American accent but maybe that is something that makes you unique.

We all have accents and that is the beauty of it. I get it, a lot of people is just not interested to learn a new language and that is okay too. I am very passionate about language learning. My schedule is a little busy at the moment so I took a break from it as I would like to focus on my studies and finish it first and sometimes those ‘breaks’ is necessary. It gives you perspective and give you more clarity in a way, you can see the language in a different light. Everyone learns at a different pace. I think if they teach languages different in schools and not the traditional way people would learn more languages.

Languages form part of who and what we are. I think language is more than just a bunch of vocabulary, it connects culture, history and its people. It shapes us how we think. One of my subjects at university is “Introduction to foreign languages” and by far one of the most interesting subjects I’ve ever had. I’ve learned a few interesting things and even how English evolved up till today.

I still recall that I went to a tour to UK and Europe and we’ve visited Shakespeare’s house in Stratford-upon-Avon. I enjoyed his work but I was 15 and didn’t understand much of it but it was a great moment. I’ve read somewhere that Shakespeare invented 2000 words in the English language.

Not the best picture but this was taken with my siblings in June 2000. Its in front of Shakespeare’s house.

The eyes are the window to your soul” – William Shakespeare

The more you know about the language the more you know about the culture and that is my perspective, people’s opinions are different. If you think about Spanish for example. I only know 2 words in Spanish but the first time I’ve heard it when I was in Barcelona it sounded like they were singing, it was so beautiful. The first time I heard French on the radio and also went to Paris when I was 15 years old, I fell in love with the language but I thought by myself this is romantic, all the ‘r’ sounds in French but also complex and its exactly like the French, they like details for example how they present a fine dining meal, they have so much details in their language and if you think about romance its not always beautiful and smooth, its messy, its complex and that is exactly like the language. Again this is just how I see it. Then you have the English language, for some reason I always loved the British accent. I worked in England when I was 18, sadly I did not pick up the accent but I remember vividly the first English movie I’ve watched was “Pride & Prejudice” and read the novel too.

I think my favorite place of England was Cotswold, its this country side with the most lush gardens, scenery and cottages. If I ever have my own home I would love to live in a cottage like that or even a home in the countryside or a farm and sipping my morning coffee on my little patio looking out on a garden with daisies and and a colored wooden front door.

For $1.2M, this stone Cotswold cottage in Greenwich, Connecticut has  Anglophile appeal | 6sqft

When you are a child you learn language just by the sounds because when you start speaking the language, you know what your parents taught you, you don’t care about grammar and you can not read or write yet. As an adult I think it becomes a bit more challenging because now you have to fit it in with your busy schedule but what I’ve realized is if you make something a priority and you make it happen then you just got to go for it. Don’t worry about other people’s opinions.

I can’t recall that I ever had an in-depth never conversation about languages in general, sometimes I wish I had, not sure why we never did, but every time I learn something new language related I feel connected to her. She was an amazing writer, that was just her hobby, she loved traveling and cultures and she has passed away a long time ago but I still feel her around. Where I am from (South-Africa) we have 11 languages which make it diverse and unique. I am really proud of it.

Why do people learn a new language?

I think everyone have different reasons of it but think about it. The many cognitive benefits of learning languages are undeniable. People who speak more than one language have improved memory, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, enhanced concentration, ability to multitask, and better listening skills.

The most common reasons in my opinion are:

  • Traveling purposes, it does help if you know a few basic phrases to get by if you plan to go to a non-English speaking country
  • Love purposes, so maybe you are dating someone that can speak English but he might be from Sweden, France or even Japan but his family can’t speak English or its limited. If I was in that position that of course I would learn my partners mother tongue.
  • Opportunities – This gives you an opportunity to work in a non English speaking country, when you are on touring and sightseeing it gives you opportunity to meet other people whose English is limited but how great is it to speak to someone in their own language.
  • Hobby – Some people just do it because its a geniune interest of the language and the culture.

But I always think its important to know the “WHY”. If you are learning a certain language you need to be connected to the language. If you know the “why” you learn the language then of course it would motivate you more to study that language.

How to choose a language?

You have to ask yourself. “WHY”

I am no language expert but this is what I think:

  • Think about why you want to learn a language. Identify the goals of this language. Don’t study a language just because you think its easy to learn or maybe its really popular.
  • Think about how are you going to schedule it in your daily life, that is something I struggled with at times.
  • If you never learned a language before I would recommend to get a tutor at first and there are many websites that you can find native speakers in your target language. You don’t necessarily have to live in that country. With technology everything became easier over the years.
  • Also set short term goals for example by the end of this week I want to be able to count till 100 or something realistic.

What affect and benefits can language learning have on the brain?

Health benefits of learning a new language – YouTube

  • It develop new areas of your mind and strengthen your brain’s natural ability to focus.
  • It boost brain functions.
  • It improves the brain functions.
  • It improves your English. Learning a foreign language also improves the knowledge of your own language.
  • Your world expands.
  • The joy of discovering – learning a new language can be a daunting prospect; it challenges you in every way but definitely worth at the end.

33 Inspirational Quotes About Language Learning - Team Japanese

Popular languages to learn:

Where to start:

Nathaniel Drew was a great inspiration for me of learning languages. Learning languages is really life changing. I never studied language in school only English but if schools can teach languages from a different angle a lot more people would enjoy language learning. He has got a youtube channel and I would highly recommend to watch some of his videos.

This took me a long time to figure out and there are many resources and with the internet everything became easier and here are my advice:

  • Choose one language and the purpose (some people study 2 or more languages at the same time but personally I would not recommend it) but again for some people it does work.
  • Set consistent habits daily but be realistic, give your brain a break as well so you don’t have to study every day and make it fun. One day you can speak with native speaker, the next day watch a movie in that language (something you like to do).
  • Language learning must be something you do every day like brushing your teeth. Make it part of your life.
  • Even if its 15 minutes a day and set small goals for example in 3 months I want to have a conversation with native speaker.
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
  • Also when I lived in Thailand I usually went to cultural events and that also helps to get to know the culture as well but if its not possible you can go to a themed café or make the food that country. I once went to Khao Yai in Thailand and there was an Italian themed plaza. It was so beautiful, one of my favorite places that is for sure.
  • But most of all just have fun with it

Resources that I found helpful:

  • Babbel (read some good reviews) but its not too expensive and they teach you useful phrases
  • italki.com (Classes are affordable, used it from time to time if I need it
  • Book (Fluent in 3 months). I bought this recently. So will see what it says. It was written by the Irish polyglot “Benny Lewis”
  • Youtube channels about language learning that I like
  • 1. Nathaniel Drew
  • 2. Robin MacPherson
  • Podcasts
  • Movies / music
  • Also another idea is if you like cooking try to cook food in the language so if you would like to learn Japanese try to make ramen, there are loads of recipes on the internet. I’ve never tried it but definitely would like to give it a go.

My mother tongue

Every single person has a mother tongue and it doesn’t matter if its a popular language or not, be proud of it. There are roughly about 6500 languages in the world, some are more popular than others and some languages are only spoken in certain parts of the world but nevertheless its part of who you are. My mother tongue as mentioned earlier is Afrikaans. Its not really a popular language to learn compared to Mandarin Chinese or even Spanish but I still love it. Its part of who and what I am.

I’ve an American friend that studies linguistics and last year I’ve helped him to improve his Afrikaans. We’ve met on a language exchange website which is called italki.com very good website to get language partners. A language that I’ve always felt connected to is French. 29 % of French are from English, you just pronounce it differently. There is a South-African chef, Jan that opened his restaurant in Nice, France and I still hope to visit France again. I was only in Paris about 20 years ago but I would love to go there and just walk through the small pathways, eating croissants and enjoy a coffee in a park and take pictures. I loved the architecture in Paris and you never should stop dreaming.

One of my favorite songs are Afrikaaans sal bly by Elandre or Pad na jou hart by Joe Foster

My language story:

I only really spoke English when I turned 18, we didn’t grow up with it even though we did have English in school. I didn’t have any English friends and we spoke Afrikaans at home so I struggled a little but my older sister, Celia helped me with that. I remember we were reading stories and then she would ask me patiently “So what happened in the story”? Living in England when I was 18 also really helped and now it all came natural to me so there will always be an obstacle or challenge in your way but with the right mindset anything is possible.

One language that I always wanted to learn is French but I had no idea where to start.

Some notes I’ve made in my first lesson at Alliance Francaise in South-Africa.

When I was in high school I bought myself a book called “French for beginners”, then when I was 18 I got an old phrase book from someone I’ve worked with. My brother gave me a sightseeing pocket book of Paris. I studied hospitality management and learned a few words for cooking terms, took a few classes at Alliance Francaise in South-Africa and then in Thailand again but it wasn’t consistent and it was too much traveling from where I lived, I had a few tutors as well who taught me online from time to time. At one point last year I did join a french group that you speak to natives twice a week and an incredible experience but I lived in Thailand and it was already 11pm in Thailand and to me it was just too late and they couldn’t change the time for some reason.

The thing is that I’ve realized like anything in this world you have to be consistent.

One of my favorite songs

So I definitely would like to give it another shot but this time it will be consistent for sure. At the moment I just would like to focus on my studies as I am busy with a few courses but when I start learning a language from the beginning I will do another post about it.

When I lived in Thailand I’ve learned a few consonants but it was hard to learn it so I just focused on listening and then speaking from time to time. I had a busy schedule with work but what helped me was listening to Thai music, listening when people spoke and also practice it wherever you go even if its not 100 % correct but what I loved the most about Thai was having Thai friends and that is when I’ve realized when I spoke Thai and the locals understood me, what an incredible feeling, it felt like an accomplishment, learning a language is like you step out of your comfort zone and have to learn to get by and express yourself in a language that isn’t even close to English but I did it, I am not fluent but I had fun with it.

This was in Ayutthaya, a group of students needed to do a video for school.

Volunteered at a meditation center and I wrote a thank you message. I had help from one of the staff members there but what a great feeling.

I have another interesting story to tell. Last year I resigned and had a job offer in Myanmar but then covid happened and I decided to stay another year in Thailand but before that I’ve met two people from Myanmar that lived in the town I was living in Thailand but they couldn’t speak English so we’ve met up again but before that I decided I want to learn a little Burmese so I booked an online tutor. I don’t think I will learn it now but it was a good experience. There are other languages that I am more interested in but I still loved learning something new.

Music is an universal language. You don’t always need words to be able to speak

A language is an art and a fascinated topics that have been discussed and researched many times but I also think a language is not just words, its history and its part of who and what we are. I also think food, pictures, music, art are languages that you don’t need words, it speak for themselves.

This might not be important but just so you know at the moment I am not focusing on any languages at the moment.

I will definitely admit that learning another language takes a lot of time and dedication. But for me, being able to have a conversation with someone in their native language — or even just being able to understand them — it’s an incredible feeling.

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Hi there! My name is Ané du Preez and I am from South-Africa. I am a teacher, writer and a solo traveler. I love learning about other cultures and traditions. I love good coffee, having interesting conversations and I love traveling. This blog is to share my wonderful adventures with all of you. I’ve been discovering the gems of mother nature and its amazing people. Join me as we venture into the beauty and inspiration that is all around us. I am an advocate for all to live their life to the fullest. To travel is to live!

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