7 October 2015
Dear friends and readers, we have another guest on the blog. I asked the very clever, über tech-savvy and all-round fab man that is Rob to tell us about his experiences as a language learner, and after you read his wonderful piece, you will want to watch his vlog or contact him on Twitter… Here he is :
Being asked to write a blog as a non-blogger is a little difficult. Yes I create video content but it’s mainly an escape from my bad spelling and punctuation, plus it also enables me to ramble. The written word is something I have always loved but never been too eloquent with.
So enough of the excuses, I suppose I should get down to my story. Who am I? Well my name is Rob, and I am a self confessed language learner. I have been learning French now for over 2 years and although I am not yet to a level that I could call fluent, I am quietly confident that if dropped into the middle of a French speaking nation I could make myself understood.
My love of language started as a small child, one of my first memories of being fascinated with language was sitting in the Happy Eater (a very cheap 80s restaurant in the UK) and pretending to speak in a foreign tongue. This is something that carried through my childhood and I remember loving to listen to languages I couldn’t understand although I didn’t really know why.
Then I started high school at 12, and started having German lessons. Unfortunately this is where my story takes a dive, as because of low self image and lack of self belief, I thought, and had been told, that I was pretty bad at English, and so when difficulty hit I was never one to push through. I just gave up.
Now my English was always on the low side, the education system at that time in the UK taught nothing of basic grammar and then when grammar was discussed in English it was something I always thought was well over my head.
This all worked against me when it came to learning German! When you are taught a language, things have to be explained and those things are normally explained via grammar terms. So I fell right back into the black hole of “I don’t understand because I am stupid”. Truly believing I would never understand I started to flounder and unfortunately I missed out on a great opportunity to learn German.
So what happened? What changed? Well I grew up. I realised the things I believed about myself were not true and, because I am actually quite a logical person I reasoned that I could actually do it and would like to… So after a few dips into other things like BSL, Greek and Hebrew I finally took up the challenge of French.
Other than being able to count to 10, I had no knowledge really of French, but I started out on the intrepid adventure! 2 years later I have learned more than French, not only did I get a stronger base in the dreaded grammar, I actually found that it was one of the most fascinating things about the language learning process.
So what are my reasons for learning? If you follow anyone with an interest in language learning or someone who has learnt one or more languages, they will tell you that motivation and persistence is what makes your language learning successful, and I would have to agree. My motivation started as the dislike of the apathy for language that most English speakers have. There is a very big case of “well, the world speaks English, so why should I learn x”. This ignorance really saddens me and so what’s the best way to do something about that? Well it’s to do something about it yourself.
After that initial feeling, I love learning about cultures, I love the fun of idioms and grammar. I love food, I also love realising why people who have learnt English sometimes say things in what seems to be a strange way. Using one’s own grammar structures in a new language always brings a smile to my face and really shows how the brain is hardwired in its native tongue.
Language learning is part of my soul now, I have big plans to learn as many as I can for as long as I can – I’m not looking to become the best polyglot on the planet, but I am looking to grow in knowledge and understanding of people and cultures and to hopefully inspire people into learning new languages by showing them that if I can do it, anyone can.
We live in a vastly colourful world of expression, through our advanced tool of language. And what an amazing place to explore!