And other questions that need to be answered about learning languages…
When I meet people, they often quickly find out that I am a language freak. Their reactions vary but follow a predictable pattern. Those questions, no matter how cliché, actually arise from legitimate concern or curiosity.
If you study or speak more than one language, or if you are planning to do so, here are a couple of questions that people most probably will ask you, and that you might want to reflect on.
— So you are some kind of language genius?
There are two kinds of people: those who grew up in multilingual families, and the rest, the vast majority of us. In the first case, you indeed start with an advantage: you are able to produce a bigger variety of sounds and your brain is used to switch from one language to the other. But in all cases, acquiring a new language is impossible without dedication and hard work. Being a genius won’t help learning Russian declensions, I promise!
— Why on earth did you decide to learn Russian (replace by any difficult/not widespread language)?
Am I asking you why on earth you decided to study chemical engineering? As a language student, you will often be asked to justify your study and career path. You do not have to. But here is my answer:
I decided to learn languages to be a traveler rather than a tourist. I am proud and happy that, when I meet someone, I am always able to always find a common language. When I speak in someone’s foreign language, I put them in a comfortable position and I am already taking a step toward them and showing interest in their culture. Communication is more genuine because there is no need for translation on their part and, in the end, you are closer to their souls.
I chose to learn Russian because I wanted to find out what it is like to learn a truly foreign language and a new alphabet; because of today’s world challenges that place Russia and the Russian-speaking world in an unprecedented central position; because I want to be an intermediary between the East and the West; because I have access to a beautiful literature and the possibility to understand people I used to see as deeply other.
— Wow, that’s great, you are soooo lucky. I wish I could travel like you!
Here the answer is easy: go ahead! Open a grammar book, or come to Riga to take a Russian language course at the Russian Language Academy Durbe, and have fun!