Je t’aime (French)
Ich liebe dich – Ich leebeh deech (German)
Σ ‘αγαπώ — S ‘agapó̱ (Greek)
אני אוהב אותך – Anee ohev ohtach (Hebrew)
Ti amo (Italian)
Kocham cię – Kohcham chyeh (Polish)
Te iubesc – Teh eeyoobesk (Romanian)
Я люблю тебя – Yah loobloo teebya (Russian)
Te quiero – Teh keeyero (Spanish)
At the age of ten I learned to speak Hebrew and was fluent within six months (thanks to a type of immersion program). Then, at twelve, I started studying French and continued with classes through high school. I picked up Russian as a freshman in college, but now am making a real effort to become fluent in the language. Spanish will be next on my list.
In a day and age where most people around the world seem to speak English and a vast majority of public space signage is written in English, why even bother learning a foreign language?
I believe it’s important – especially for Americans – to learn the languages of people who live in other countries. And here are my top twelve reasons:
- Communicating with someone in his or her language can promote open dialogue and facilitate mutual understanding; it also develops friendships.
- A particular spoken language can offer insights to and an appreciation of the country’s history and culture; it paves the way to new discoveries.
- Sharing a language with someone enables you to be an “insider”; a member of “the club” and confidante.
- People appreciate the effort you make to communicate with them in their language; they embrace you warmly.
- Learning the language of one’s overseas ancestors can connect you in deep and meaningful ways with your roots.
- The process of studying a language improves your analytical, problem-solving, and decision-making skills (left-brain stuff).
- Knowing a foreign language can position you more competitively in today’s global job market.
- Having multiple languages under your belt can boost your confidence and enhance how others perceive you.
- Knowing a bit about the language of another country might encourage you to travel more; it can make for particularly memorable experiences.
- Speaking a foreign language can help one become more open-minded.
- Americans who speak foreign languages are seen to be less snooty, egotistical, or self-centered.
- Challenging oneself – at any age – is never a bad thing.
Despite the good reasons for doing so, I do understand that many people are not up to tackling a foreign language with the objective of speaking fluently. It’s hard. It demands commitment. It requires lots of practice. I promise you, however, that learning a few key words or phrases can take you far. At the very least, you should learn to say the following:
- Good morning
- Good afternoon
- How are you?
- Thank you
- I’m sorry
- Excuse me
- My name is
- Do you speak English?
- Where is the bathroom?
- I love you
Just learning to say a few simple things in a foreign language can open you up to others and a world of amazing possibilities. I’m not a linguist or an expert; just a person who loves connecting with others on their turf. Challenge yourself and try it. You’ll be happy you did.
Note: One example of an easy-to-learn language program is Rosetta Stone. It can be downloaded to your iPad or Tablet, laptop, or even to your smart-phone.