Transcriber: Susana González Reviewer: Keira White
文稿录入：Susana González 审核：Keira White
Learning a foreign language is good for you for so many reasons.
Why should I learn English?
It’s not a question people ask themselves a lot these days, is it?
English is probably going to become
the world’s lingua franca, if it’s not already.
Today, English is the most widely used language for newspaper,
今天 英语是最广泛使用的语言 用于报刊
book and scientific publishing, international telecommunications,
international trade, mass entertainment, diplomacy, and, of course, the Internet.
国际贸易 大众娱乐 外交 当然还有互联网
There are now more than 8,000 courses taught completely in English
by leading universities in non-English speaking countries.
So for people like me,
non-native English speakers,
it would seem that if we want to keep up with the world,
learning at least one foreign language, namely English, is a must.
We learn it to find a good job,
to be more successful, or even to immigrate.
I’ve been learning English since I was little.
At first it was my parents who taught me,
which is kind of funny because neither of them spoke any English back then,
and they have successfully avoided learning it for the past 25 years.
In fact, when I got my bachelor’s degree in linguistics,
my mom said, ″Good job, honey. What’s next for you?″
我妈妈说：“干得好 亲爱的 你下一个目标是什么？”
″Are you now going to get a real degree?″
After my studies, I worked as an English teacher.
And whenever I taught an introductory class,
I would ask my students,
″Why do you want to learn a foreign language?″
The answers I would usually get were more or less similar,
but before I share them, I would like to ask you to go back for a moment.
Think of a time you first started learning a foreign language.
Do you remember why?
The answers my students would give were,
″My parents make me″,
″I want to understand social media content″,
″I want to travel″, ″I want to get a good job″.
And a lot of people also acknowledged
that learning a language is good for you in general.
But if we stop and think about it, work, travel, good marks at school,
但如果我们停下来想想 工作 旅游 在学校取得好成绩
watching films, are all amazing, noble reasons to learn a foreign language.
But can you get all that without actually… learning?
I think we probably can.
If we go along with this idea,
it takes only a little thought to grasp what you can actually do,
even if you don’t understand a word in English or any other foreign language.
For example, with the technology we have today,
software can translate a whole web page
into your native language in a split second.
There are apps that can translate
almost any text captured by your smartphone camera in real time.
And most media are served to you with subtitles or a voiceover,
available almost immediately after the recording is made.
Not to mention those lucky enough to be born
into English-speaking families.
They should be fine, right?
And, here we come back to this vague
″Learning a language is good for you!″
And it is!
It can bring many benefits,
including those that can improve
the quality of your life and indeed your health.
Which is a nice bonus for those of us
who started learning it for something else.
It’s like when you buy a pack of breakfast cereal
and… ″here’s a free sticker inside!″
Let’s move on now,
and take a closer look at some of these benefits.
I like to visualize concepts.
It helps me give form to abstract ideas and make them more simple.
I like to imagine every person as a musician.
Let’s start with somebody who can only speak one language.
You probably even know someone like that.
Can you picture them in your mind’s eye?
Let’s assume that this person was born and raised in their native country.
They have been able to get by
with their native language be it for work, travel and leisure.
Now, if we visualize some more and give this person an instrument,
in some sense we can compare their brain to a music box.
Now, how does the box work?
You spin the handle and magic happens.
Beautiful, does the trick.
But the thing about the box is that it can only play one tune.
The mechanism is kind of embedded into the box,
so changing it is a lot of work.
You repeat one and the same movement all over again.
Now, we have bilinguals.
In comparison to monolinguals,
they have twice as many choices on how to deliver an idea.
But it’s not that simple.
When bilinguals use the target language,
they actually activate both languages that they know.
It means that there is always this competition going on
in their heads between the two languages.
They have to be constantly ready to respond in one language
and suppress the other one.
Instead of a music box,
I would give them a tape recorder and two tapes.
Not quite an instrument, but it can play music too.
Now, if you’re bilingual, your native tape is the one you know best.
Depending on how well you know your second language,
the other one could be secondary.
So each time you need to play a word or a phrase,
it takes you time to get the native tape out,
insert the other one,
and then find the word or phrase that you’re looking for.
In addition to that, you sometimes forget where exactly it is,
or even if this word is even on the tape.
Each time there is this switch between these mental tapes,
it takes you mental effort.
It’s an exercise.
And like with all exercises,
it gets easier and easier the more you do it,
until you know the tape inside out.
And with each new language,
your musical instrument gets more elaborate,
like adding new keys to a piano.
Some of them you know better, some worse.
But each time you switch, you get more fluent.
And as you learn another third, fourth language,
you pick it up faster.
You understand the logic the languages might share,
and you are more likely to overcome
the barriers to speaking with your next foreign language.
And that mental effort translates onto the other areas of your life.
It opens your mind for greater opportunities,
and prepares you for possible challenges.
And, that is not only true
for those who started learning a language early in life.
That’s right! You can pick up a new language today
and start enjoying all the amazing benefits it brings.
It can even influence your life indirectly,
opening new paths for you.
In 2020, like many others,
I found myself in quarantine.
My boyfriend, my cat and I in a tiny one- room apartment
我 我男友 和我的猫在一个只有一间房的小套间
for several months.
I figured I needed a new hobby to stay sane.
It needed to be a one-person indoor hobby,
and it needed to be cheap.
So, I decided I would start learning a new language.
I didn’t have a preference.
So I did several rounds of flipping a coin
and it turned out to be Finnish.
I armed myself with YouTube videos and learning apps.
And soon enough, I learned some stuff about
some Finnish delicacies,
some Finnish towns, one famous Finnish poet.
Having this tiny connection to the culture made me want to dig deeper.
And before I even realized it,
it’s December, and I’m applying to study
at a Finnish University.
What started small, became this huge change
that helped me out of depression and gave me purpose.
Our brains are picky.
Our brains love new things.
It gives us that handsome reward of dopamine
in exchange for novelty.
That’s why I have so many pairs of shoes.
Usually when you learn something new,
the brain-boosting benefits decrease
as soon as you get your eureka moment.
For example, you want to learn to ride a bicycle.
You start trying, you go, and it feels great.
你开始尝试 你会了 这感觉太妙了
But, as soon as you get the hang of it, it’s not the same satisfaction-wise.
It’s just going.
But that doesn’t happen when you learn a foreign language.
Instead, your brain needs to keep working,
constantly plan, concentrate and make decisions.
不断规划 集中精神 做出决策
Every day is a school day.
It never ends, which to me, can be both amazing and frustrating.
I have been learning English for ages.
I have been teaching it as a second language for several years,
and I still make mistakes.
And there are still words that I don’t know.
Not so long ago, I was watching some British TV
and I saw the word ″satsuma″ in a joke.
Of course I didn’t get the joke.
I’d never heard nor seen this word before.
At that moment, I felt almost angry at all the English people
who decided to adopt this word into the language
just to make my life more difficult.
But, I did make a mental note.
Apparently, it’s a kind of fruit like a mandarin or tangerine.
I can never tell the difference between them,
because in my native language, we have one word to describe all three.
Later, I was abroad in a supermarket and I saw this sign, ″satsuma″.
I pointed to it and I said out loud, there were people around me.
″You little piece of fruit. I know you.″
And it felt really good. Our brains like to be proud.
We like achievement, we like to be the best.
And this is the best kind of achievement because it’s not competitive.
The only person you are trying to out-best is you.
And each new word, phrase and sentence brings you victory.
It doesn’t have to be a big victory.
It can be as small as understanding a joke in a foreign language.
It’s never too early to learn,
and it’s never too late.
Transcriber: Susana González Reviewer: Keira White