Learning a New Language Can Change You. This Is What I’ve Noticed.
It can be hard and frustrating. However, if you stick with it, learning a new language can change your entire outlook on life.
My language learning journey is one of self-discovery.
It started by studying in school to fulfill various mandatory language requirements. I studied Spanish in middle school and college and Latin in high school.
After fulfilling my language requirements throughout schooling, I stopped studying languages, that is, until I started traveling.
Throughout my career as a filmmaker, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to several interesting and unique locations. One location in particular stood out — Cap-Haitien, Haiti where the predominant languages spoken are Creole and French.
I was aware of the language barrier prior to going, but this was the first place I traveled to where English was not commonly spoken or understood.
Knowing that you won’t be understood or be able to communicate with people is one thing, but physically being in that situation yourself is another.
Not only was it was a culture shock I had never experience before, but it made by realize that there are billions of other people out there that have their own cultural norms and languages different than my own here in the U.S.
Not to say that I wasn’t aware of this previously, but the experience turned what I knew from a classroom level understanding of other cultures and languages to a more practical, realistic understanding.
After returning from the trip, the experience stayed with me and the lingering desire of wanting to communicate and connect with people outside of my own culture grew exponentially.
I decided to act on this desire and start learning languages again.
I landed on learning French because I wanted to learn a language I had no prior experience with.
It was a a fresh restart of my language learning journey, but will admit, it was difficult at first. It had been almost a decade since learning my last language.
After overcoming the initial hump of incomprehensibility and discomfort that comes with learning any language, I wanted to see what French looked like in the real world.
I watched countless hours of French films, music, and even various YouTubers in French. I didn’t care that I didn’t fully understand.
I allowed myself to be uncomfortable. I watched, listened, and studied what I didn’t know or understand.
Fast-forward nearly a year later, I’ve noticed I actively seek to branch out from consuming English speaking content to consuming French and other foreign language content. I’ve become okay with not understanding at first because I’m genuinely curious and want to learn about other cultures and people different than me.
In a way, I’ve become a curious student again — curious to try new experiences, foods and connecting with a diverse range of people no matter the cultural barriers.
It may not happen to you if you decide to learn a new language, but at the least, you may notice that you become more open-minded, and that in and of itself, allows you to experience and get much more out of life.