Top 3 Reasons why you should learn a foreign language.

Bonjour mes amis!

Ca va?

Bugger I can’t get the funny sign thing* under the C so now it looks like I’m offering you a glass of Cava, which I’m not.

I was going to write this post in French but to be honest although I have a degree in it, my written French is pretty crap these days. I also have degree level German and one-glass-of-Cava-and-I’ll-talk-to-anyone level Spanish.

Languages are kind of my thing.

My Gran did kindly point out that there are whole countries of people who can already speak French so really my degree was a total waste of time.

Except it wasn’t.

OK maybe the bit where I handed in an essay about a book that wasn’t even on the reading list 18 months late, that wasn’t a high point.

But the part when I discovered the porn version of Madame Bovary in the University LaserDisc library was epic.

At school I loved French because we had a glamorous young teacher who swished her long golden hair, talked about  Paris and said Bof! lot.

I sat mesmerised at the front of the class wearing Dennis Taylor style glasses fantasizing about moving to France where a daily diet of baguette and Orangina would miraculously cure my short sightedness and make my boobs grow.

(To this day I have no idea what possessed me to take style tips from a middle aged Irish snooker player.)

Top 3 Reasons  why you should learn a foreign language

3.  When you learn a language you are learning to communicate with people, to pay attention to what they are saying.

To speak a language you have to learn to listen.

2. Most foreign languages require lots of hand gestures. What’s not to like?

I bloody love flapping my arms around when I talk.

When I’m really animated I gesticulate so wildly I have been known to punch people in the face.

1. Best of all when you learn to speak a foreign language you have to make a bit of a tit of yourself.

You are going to get things wrong.

Making a bit of a tit of yourself is an important life skill.

Fear and embarrassment can stop you doing many things but lots of people way more successful than me will tell you that cocking things up is a brilliant way to be betterer at stuff.

Worrying you are going to say the wrong word, use the wrong tense or refer to your angry female lecturer who – let’s face was quite butch – as a man, should never stop you from ploughing ahead and giving it a go.

Learning to accept failure is the best reason to learn a language I can think of.

So do me a favour, even if you hated French at school, add learning a language to the list of things you are going to do but never quite get round to.

And embrace the embarrassment.

Like this:

At a roadside restaurant in rural Vietnam Mr Eeh Bah and I managed to order a meal by acting out our desired choice.

We flapped our wings, pecked each other and and clucked like chickens.

The waitress nodded and ran off into the kitchen, 20 minutes later we were tucking into a delicious stir fry.

With prawns.

I have no idea what she thought we were doing the bird dance for, but we had beer and noodles so in the end it didn’t matter.

We gave it a go and that’s all you can ask.


* it’s called a cedille, with an accent aigu which I can’t do either.

4 thoughts on “Top 3 Reasons why you should learn a foreign language.

  1. Perhaps prawns flap like chickens in Vietnam which might suggest that they are safest cooked with noodles … I once told a French cafe owner their place was a toilet which I don’t think particularly endeared me to them, but they did point me in the right direction to go and wash my hands 🙂 xx

  2. My French has got loads better since I had kids, and I’m sure it’s because I am now so experienced at making a tit of myself I’m way beyond feeling embarrassed about anything much. :s

  3. Am a bit of a linguist myself and I have found that by far the best reason to learn a language is so that you can talk about other people without them knowing. Right in front of them. This is assuming, of course that they don’t secretly know the same language, like when I overheard a Scottish couple in France discussing their affair in graphic detail in a clothes shop, because they assumed no one else spoke English. Which was awesome. But totally agree that you have to throw pride out the window and just risk ordering the fried penis instead of fried chicken.

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