As someone who grew speaking a language that’s only spoken by 5 million give or take a
few, the importance of languages and how essential they can be in both work and education
soon became apparent. As my wanderlust grew, I soon realised that Norwegian, with its many
quirks, would not get me far in the wider world. Skip forward a few years (errr maybe more
like 15) and I have since dabbled in German and Spanish, by default understand Swedish and
Danish, spent a marvelous year in Italy soaking up its culture and language, as well as pretty
much perfected The Queen’s English after setting up camp in London eight years ago.
As I’ve visited, lived in and eventually settled down in a foreign country, I have learnt first
hand how crucial – and rewarding – it is to be able to communicate with people in their
native tongue. When living in Italy, local residents refused to speak to me in English and
kept saying: “When in Italy we speak Italian.” While this might not the best way for them to
practice their English, for me it was great as it forced me to learn and understand theirs. And
by doing so I had a much richer experience of the boot-shaped country than I would have had
Being someone who has more than her fair share of languages on her resume, I am shocked
that there still seems to be this idea in the English-speaking world that there’s no real reason
for learning a second language.
OK many of those living in London already speak a second or third language because of their
origin or due to work, but still there are so many more out there who don’t. I believe that
everyone, regardless of what you do and where you live, could benefit from speaking another
language. Much has been written about the benefits of being bilingual and studies have found
that knowing a second language is a great way of keeping the brain in shape (Source). With
the world continuously becoming smaller as business and politics take place across boarders,
organisations are increasingly turning multi-national and multi-lingual. And as more and
more of us are living out parts of our lives online, we could all benefit from being able to
explore the world further without language barriers holding us back.
Could Mandarin be the next world language?
I’ve been toying with the idea of learning another language for a while – looking for a
challenge. The other month, after reading about how Portuguese or Mandarin are set to
become the two most important and influential languages in the future, the debate soon
flowed in the office: Which of these languages would you choose if you had the chance?
Curious, I sent out a tweet asking my followers as well. Many said Mandarin. So when
Rosetta Stone got in touch and asked if I was up for a language challenge, there wasn’t any
other language to choose.
Mandarin is already the most widely spoken language in the world, and as China’s economy
continues to grow its citizens will travel more and its businesses will look to expand outside
of the country’s borders, so it could be a great thing to understand. Personally, besides
challenging myself to learn a language so far from any other I have attempted in the past, I
see learning Mandarin is an investment in the future, my future.
One day I’d like to travel to China and when this day comes it would be fantastic to be able
to speak with the locals in their native language, regardless of how poorly I do so. Moreover,
Mandarin could become a valuable addition as I progress in my career. Who knows what
opportunities Mandarin, combined with my hurdy gurdy mother tongue could potentially
bring? But for now, after only a few lessons, I’ll be happy just to be able to order chow mein
in Mandarin in London’s Chinatown after my beginner’s course is up.
To be continued…
Elisabeth has been provided a six-month online course by Rosetta Stone UK. For more
information and prices visit: www.rosettastone.co.uk.