Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Silly Reasons (Not) to Start Learning a New Language, Part 1

Currently I'm learning French, Swedish, Japanese, and Taiwanese (or Hokkien/Min Nan), which is really fun but energy-consuming. I ended up focusing on French and Swedish, because accessing their cultures is a lot harder than the latter two.

There was this time that I went to a Multilingual café in an attempt to practisce my spoken French. It was tragic. I was mute most of the time because a) I couldn't understand 70% of what others were saying, b) I was being such an introvert, and c) I knew too little French to participate in a conversation. But there was a question that I did understood, and nonetheless failed to answer:
Pourquoi étudient-tu français?
I seriously didn't know what to say, which was not just awkward, but downright embarrassing. (I mumbled something about watching YouTube videos but meh, when you barely have time to watch English videos alone, you won't even have the motivation find channels that suit your tastes.)

After I went home, I racked my brain to remember the reason why I started to learn French in the first place (during which I may have kicked myself internally a few times.) If I could choose again, I definitely would have chosen Spanish -- it is more widely spoken, and it's just such a beautiful language to listen to. (sorry, français, but you really don't sound that nice to me.) Anywho, I might as well share with you a few reasons my brain managed to salvage from the trenches of my horrendous memory, as to why I chose French in my young impressionable years:

1. Because I wanted to be a special snowflake
The first that came up was actually that I thought France is a country that sounds lovely and romantic, but certainly little me wouldn't touch anything that's remotely romantic, so that idea was soon defenestrated. The memory of finding out Spanish being the third-most spoken language in the world came to mind. Wanting to be a hipster who does not speak a language that at least 472 million people are speaking, I chose French (which is another most-spoken language on Earth. way to be a special snowflake.) But really, Melody? The whole point of learning a language is to be able to talk to more people in the world, jeez.

2. Because I couldn't roll my r's
I seriously thought that was going to be a problem back then. Turns out French has a sound that was harder for me to even imagine (the uvular r), plus a shit-ton of ambiguous vowels and really unpredictable spelling.
Oh, and actually, you can still speak Spanish even if you don't know how to roll the r's (something I've learnt in the language acquisition course last summer.) The only thing that matters is to get your point across, and it's not like every r in a word is rolled anyway. (they're more flapped than rolled)
And also? I can roll my r's now. The irony.

3. Because my mum used to learn French
Don't even ask me why this could be a reason. It just sort of made sense in that little brain of mine. A lot of sense, actually, because that was probably what inspired me to start learning a new language. On second thought, at least I could access my mum's learning materials and notes? (nope, I never found them.)

Later in my life, some less stupid reasons emerged: my high school only offered French and Japanese courses, thus I continued my petit voyage of French-learning; I then decided that I want to learn a language from each major language family, but by then the place in the Romance language is (unfortunately to my Spanish-adoring ears) occupied by French. (I still love you though, français.)

So there you have it, la raison pour laquelle j'apprends le français. Now this whole post is waaay out of my French proficiency, so yay for me to be able to explain to that French guy next time (not)? 

I originally wanted to write the reasons for my learning Swedish, Japanese, and Taiwanese, but later realised that that would become too long of a blogpost. So keep your eyes peeled for part 2, if you are so inclined to be informed of my not-so-glorious language-learning causes.

What languages have you learnt other than your mother tongue? How did you choose the language? Do let me know in the doobleedoo comments! (I sound like a youtuber)
Also, yes, HIIIII I'M BACK!
(for an unguaranteed length of time, because i'm a procrastinating git.)


  1. I'm currently learning French, too! Sometimes it's so hard, though. In the past I learned German and a tiny bit of Mandarin Chinese XD I had a phase when I wanted to learn lots of languages so I could communicate with other people around the world, break down barriers and all that, although unfortunately I couldn't be bothered to stick with the same language for long enough to actually learn to speak it properly... XD


    1. Ohhh, a fellow French learner! French IS so hard sometimes, especially the nuances like verb conjugations (I have really bad memory) or preposition. UGH I just don't get à and de with verbs. One of my ambitions is to learn a language in each language family before moving on to learn more languages, but it's just because languages and linguistics is so freaking interesting. I don't even have the nerves to talk to people in my native language sometimes, so breaking down barriers is pretty much out of the window. I feel you, sticking to a language is hard! I think you just gotta find something that interests you in that culture, which is what I'm trying to do with Swedish and French (the romantic part is a bit of a caricature.)
      If you're still interested though, I can teach you Mandarin Chinese XD

    2. French can be so confusing, especially with the verb conjugations! Like sometimes a verb is spelled differently but it's pronounced exactly the same? WHYY.
      But I find languages so interesting, I think they help you understand your own language better, if that makes sense? Though it's true that I'm so shy if I ever go to a foreign country I probably wouldn't speak a word! XD
      I learned Mandarin waay back and it was SO confusing with all the tones and having to pronounce things a certain way or it means something else :P Is Mandarin Chinese your first language? :)

    3. Hi, sorry for the late reply, I've been busy the past few days. Come to think of it, English probably seems as strange to people who are learning it though! The erratic spelling is plain madness XD.
      Oh, I totally understand what you mean, because when your over a certain age, you just have to learn another language through your native language, and there's always something that cannot be explained and is "just the way it is"! Talking to someone in a language you're still learning is just scary, it's like you'd always make a fool of yourself no matter what, but I think that's also the fastest way to learn XD
      Yes, I am a native speaker! :) And yeah, I figured Mandarin is probably pretty confusing to people who speak tone-less languages, but hey, the stress and prosody in English can be hard to grasp as well :P.
      Also, if you find languages interesting, you might want to look into linguistics, it's the best thing for language geeks, aha.

  2. This is cool! I can only speak English and Hindi, and my hindi spelling and grammar is horrendous, although I can understand it okay. Your reasons for learning French are HILARIOUS and I really enjoyed reading them. I wanted to learn French but I'm glad I can speak Hindi since it's pretty useful if you live in India+connects me to my culture lol :)

    1. Ooh, Hindi seems so cool, it's one of the languages that I'd like to learn someday! I think your relationship with Hindi is quite like mine with Taiwanese, especially the culture part of it (I can understand and speak basic Taiwanese but my vocabulary is laughable)
      I'm glad you enjoyed my post, as the reasons are probably as funny as they are facepalm-worthy lol. And GO LEARN WHATEVER LANGUAGE YOU WANT! It's a very special kind of torture/hobby that opens a whole new world to you XD