Perhaps the most important gift we are born with is the ability to communicate. Being able to communicate allows us to do some truly remarkable things. I am communicating with you right now, for instance. And the message I want to communicate is that we should all make an effort to learn a language very different from our own. There are many people in this planet who can speak multiple languages, and few of them are actually fluent in all of them. Naturally, people who grew up with more than one language being spoken around them had an advantage here. But the results are quite different when you really make an effort to pick up a second or third language.
I am in the process of learning Mandarin Chinese. Let’s just say that if I were to imagine my learning experience as a war then I would be in the losing side, part of the underdogs, the heavily outnumbered and outgunned side. And if my brain cells were soldiers they would be dying left and right. There is no way anyone will favor me to pick up Mandarin because, honestly, I am not that bright. I was bright before, but I wasted those years trying to do totally irrelevant stuff (relevant at the time). So here I am trying to learn a very difficult new language.
Granted, the resources currently available to us for learning stuff is bordering on the endless. Thanks to the internet there is no shortage of places to learn from. I am using a podcast subscription to learn. It helps if you have someone to practice with. Although that might lead to the other person finding you annoying.
First thing people ask me when I say I am in China, or have been to, is without fail “Can you speak the language?”. To which I reply, without fail, “A bit, not really good at it”. This often leads to the conversation dying a sudden death. If a Chinese person asked me that question, I would try and reply in order to impress. But it never happens.
I stayed in Malaysia a long long time and I picked up Bahasa Malaysia without even trying. My brain connected the dots between words and soon I was able to understand everything. It proved to be very useful. I learn best when I am not paying attention. Strange as it may sound, I found it to be the case. I got through school by paying attention, but not learning. It helped during the exams, but I can’t remember a single math equation or a chemistry experiment.
Learning a new language not only exercises your brain, it makes you realize that you are old. It’s best to pick up a language when your brain is still developing not disintegrating, so I would ask you to start as soon as possible and then stick to it religiously.
But hold on, why should you learn a new language? The title of this post is misleading if I don’t tell you why. So here it is, imagine you are cruising on your newly delivered billion dollar yacht. Everything is totally awesome, you are awesome, the world is awesome, you are lucky to be alive and you love life. Then it happens, you cruise right into a storm. All the high tech stuff in your yacht can’t do s***, your only hope is to send an emergency message, you transmit it in english and then this happens:
So, there you go, quit sinking and dive into it.
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