Who Even Knows?

Why be a Polyglot?

There are around 6,500 languages spoken in the world. Some of them are dying. Some of them are thriving. Some of them are almost a global standard. Some have mixed together. Some are slang used to often that it basically qualifies as its own language. And here’s why you should learn more than one.

  1. The roots of words start to interest you way more than you’d think. I know Spanish, so I figured, why not spread the love and learn more Latin-based Romance languages? The goal is comprehension in French, Italian, and Portuguese (it’s hard and slow going, for those who are wondering) and learning all three at once might be a major mistake on my part. But the cool thing is that I’ll learn something in one language that helps me learn another language. “To speak” in French is “parler“, and it’s “parlare” in Italian. I know that “Oh my god” is “Ay dios mio” in Spanish, so when I first read “Ai meu deus” in Portuguese, I had a pretty good idea of what it meant.
  2. You get to see people’s faces light up when you try to speak in their language. I can’t tell you the amount of times I start speaking Spanish, and people who also speak Spanish give me a specific look: eyes wide, pure shock that they quickly try to cover up, and then a look of comfort and excitement. Speaking to someone in their language shows that you want to create a connection, and it automatically gives you something in common with someone. Just a heads up: some people won’t be excited when you try to speak your language. I’ve tried ordering in French a few times when in Paris, and the cashiers spoke to me in English, instead. Don’t take offense. They might also want to practice.
  3. It’s an automatic in to learning about culture. I speak Spanish, right? But I speak a Spanish that is very Mexican-influenced. If you were to send me to Argentina, it would take me a while to acclimate to the new accent. If you sent me to Cuba, I’d be very, very lost, because the slang and accent there are insanely hard to understand. But that’s the cool thing! Languages adapt to the people who speak them, and evolve over time. As a result, each language reflects the society that speaks it: you can learn about it’s values, it’s youth and their slang, and even what words they don’t have.
  4. It just makes you seem smarter and sound cooler. Being able to pronounce the names of fancy French wines, sing the lyrics of Brazilian funk, or talk about how a lot of the roots of Spanish words are similar to Arabic words are all things that you can tell other people to impress them. Admit it, if I told you I could do all three of those things (I can’t – yet) you’d want to keep talking to me, right?
  5. You’ll have an accent! You might not realize this when you sign up to learn a new language, but you are about to be one of the many people with a foreign accent. Don’t let this daunt you! Yes, your accent might give you away as a foreigner, or even an American, but hey! That’s a fun conversation starter. And let’s face it, a lot of accents can be adorable, and downright fascinating.
  6. You’ll find a community.  Whether it’s through social media, travel, starting conversations with strangers, or joining a class, you’re going to find other people who are language fanatics, too. When I started taking on new languages, I started to notice people around me who were also interested in learning languages. I reached out to friends who spoke Italian for song recommendations, texted my friend with French conjugation questions, and compared Duolingo progress with fellow polyglot-wannabes. It’s fun to know there are other people out there that are willing to take a major step out of their comfort zone and learn a language.

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