Do you want to learn another language? How many do you want to learn?
People learn foreign languages for different reasons. If you are one of those people, you first have to ask yourself.
Why do you want to learn another language? Is it because…
…you need to learn the language of the country you are going to work in.
…you have a friend/family relative/partner who speaks that language.
…or you are learning that language in school and need to pass it.
Sure, the best way to learn a language is by actually by being in a country that speaks a different language. What if you don’t have the time or money to fly to a foreign country and you don’t want to risk being lost in translation.
Whatever your reason to learn Language X is, it doesn’t matter if it’s for work, for someone, or for school. You need one thing to motivate yourself into successful learning:
You need to be interested in the language. That goes for any subject or interest you pursue. This is nothing new, other polyglots say this.
Why bother doing something you’re not interested in?
If you’re not interested or don’t care about something, you’re not motivated into continuing to do it.
Would you succeed in being an accountant if you don’t care about numbers or profits but because of a possible high salary (no offense to accountants)? Would you write the most romantic novel if you neither like books nor romance? Some people need someone to push them rather than them motivating themselves. Eventually, they will become bored or have difficulty practising something they don’t truly like.
How will you be interested?
However, I can’t tell you how to be interested in a language. You can’t just wake up in the morning or walk by a shop window and tell yourself, “I will learn Language X!!”. This interest must stem from something already established within you. Your interest may be influenced by your parents, your heritage, your interest in another culture, your friends, after visiting a certain place, etc.
Or you’re not interested in learning another language and just want to stick one language only, which is fine too.
If you’re already interested in a particular culture, the best way to learn how the culture is nurtured is by learning the language.
People can be interested in learning Japanese after watching so much anime. Or they learn the romantic language of French because they hope to speak it in the romantic city of Paris. Or an Australian of Irish descent might want to learn the Irish language because he wants to know more about his heritage after growing up in Australia. Or for nationalistic reasons.
Your interest can be a catalyst to a long-term relationship
If you’re interested in being multilingual or a polyglot, you will gain a lot of experience developing techniques in learning language every time you learn a new language. The more languages I teach myself, I begin to develop a method or strategy of how to learn a new language, which I will talk about later. In my case, after being interested in one language, I became passionate for language learning in general.
The more you are interested in the language, the more you learn about it. Your interest will later become a passion, which would then become a dedication. Your wealth of knowledge in the language is proof of your dedication to it. This dedication will also motivate you to become persistent in understanding parts of the language you find difficult.
If you do start to find learning the language difficult, would you just lose interest and give up? If you do, were you that interested in the first place? Maybe, you’re just lazy or you don’t know how to learn a language, which is another topic for another day. Remember, you don’t learn a language overnight.
My interests came and went
As someone with Philippine blood, I was interested learning Tagalog as a child after hearing my parents and grandparents talk. But in my teens, that interest went dormant because I found it difficult. The reasons were because I had no strategy of how to learn a language and I was pressured with school. Later when I became a young adult, I tried to learn Tagalog again because I wanted to learn more about my roots than I knew before. This time, I had more time, less pressure, a bit more money, a learning strategy and I taught myself in my own comfort. Now I know how to make sentences using a larger range of vocabulary in Tagalog.
Also as a child, I really enjoyed learning Japanese in Grade 4. I even learned how to write in Hiragana. Then I moved to another school that taught Italian instead of Japanese. There I was never excited for every Italian class especially when it was never fun. I probably now know more Italian than Japanese.
Although, I did well in language subjects like Indonesian and French in high school, I was never interested in learning any of those languages and my school never offered Japanese. Then after high school, I learned French and Italian again and noticed some similarities. So I tried learning other languages in the same language family.
However, there are still some languages I am not particularly interested in learning (yet?).
There are also certain factors that may affect your interests (e.g no money, no course, etc) which will be a story for another time.
All in all
Whenever someone asks me why I learned Language X, the usual answer would be not because it would be advantageous in the business world or because I can pick up some chick who speaks that language but because I’m interested in it.
So learn a language because you want to, not because you need to.
Despite my long lecture about the importance of interest, that’s just Step 1 of how to learn a new language. The next step will be discussed some other time. But until then…