Learning a Language

Nelson Mandela said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

It’s not easy to learn another language, and it’s more than just knowing how to say “hello” or “cat”. Learning a language takes time and dedication. I started learning French at age 10 and German at 13. I lived in the south of France last year, which helped me toward my fluency, as well as submersion in other cultures. I made friends with amazing people who spoke Japanese and Arabic. They taught me a little bit of their language and it stuck with me.

With the fabulous World Wide Web at the tip of our fingers, literally, learning a language is now easier than ever. I’ve spent my times on websites like I.E. Languages, LanguagePod 101, Duolingo, and countless others. There are dozens of apps for smartphone users that cover a variety of languages. For example, I have apps to help me learn Norsk (Norwegian), Russian, German, Japanese, Spanish, and, of course, French. You can even download podcasts from iTunes that are there specifically to help you learn a language.

I plan to major in Linguistics at uni because I find languages in their entirety to be incredibly fascinating. I’ll be studying different parts of speech, how languages function and are learned vocally and written, and be taking classes in foreign languages. It’s going to be a lot of work, though.

When I study a language, I go all out for a few months or so. I write extensive notes, listen to songs and watch movies in that language, as well as translate short stories. I also try talking with other native speakers. Before I know it, I end up dreaming in that language or translating words and phrases in my head. It’s very satisfying.

One language that interests me in particular is Korean. I plan to learn it in the future and have already started to learn the script, Hangul. It’s actually an interesting story of how it was created. It was created in the 15th century by King Sejong the Great. At the time, the Korean language was using the current Chinese alphabet. This was a major problem because it was very difficult to translate certain words and not all of them could be written correctly. Because of this, a vast majority of the Korean population was illiterate. So one day, King Sejong the Great decided to bang out an entirely new system of writing that would make it easier for his people to read and write. Every character in the alphabet is pronounced how it looks! The sound for “O” literally looks like a mouth in the shape of an “O”, which is how you shape your mouth to make it. This new writing system made it a lot easier for people to read and write, and the level of literacy increased dramatically. The alphabet was a huge success and is still in use today.

I’ll attach a comic below that can help you learn the Korean writing system, known as Hangul, in about 15 minutes, created by Ryan Estrada.

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