Patricia is one of our most hard working uTalk challenge participants, learning Basque, Czech, Farsi and Kazakh since January (and let’s not forget Icelandic, Esperanto and Latvian last year)! We can’t wait to hear which language she’ll choose next…
There are many reasons why I love learning languages, including popular ones such as improving my résumé or getting by on a trip (and yes, I’ve got another trip to Iceland lined up, það er spennandi!). However, today I’d like to share with you one reason that is perhaps a little less obvious.
Due to an unexpected flight delay on my way from Pittsburgh, I recently overnighted in Toronto. The airline provided us (wonderful) accommodation in downtown Toronto and I shared a cab ride with two other stranded passengers. The cab driver had a talk radio station on, but it was not in a language I immediately recognized. Curious, I asked the driver which language that was. He told me it was Amharic, one of the languages of Ethiopia. I excitedly told him it was a language that was on my uTalk Challenge list and that I would learn it soon. Promise. He laughed and told me a little about Ethiopia and the Ethiopian community in Toronto. He taught me how to say “Hello” in Amharic and said I was brave to take on a new language every month. He then asked which language I was learning at the moment. I told him I was learning Persian (Farsi) and loving it.
The other two passengers in the cab then turned to me and said “well maybe we can help you then”. I lit up and proudly said “shabetun bekheyr”, “parvaz”, and “ba t’akhir” – “good evening”, “flight”, and “delayed”. They smiled and asked me what else I knew and if I had any questions about the language. And from there on, we talked about the old Persian script, Noruz, the influence of French, various historical events, Persian poets, and many other things. When I had left my house that day, I hadn’t expected to learn so much from people who, up to that taxi ride, were perfect strangers.
And that’s exactly the point: learning languages, even at a rudimentary level, opens you up to the world because it fuels curiosity. I didn’t converse in fluent Persian with my fellow passengers – I just let them know that I was interested in it and the culture and history that surround it (but it was very nice to hear that my pronunciation’s lovely!).
On that night, immersed in the vast multiculturalism of Toronto, I suddenly felt extremely connected to the world. And that’s the feeling I keep seeking over and over again in my language-learning journey. Perhaps it’s one of those “chicken or egg?” things, where it’s unclear whether learning languages opens up your mind or if it’s the curiosity that encourages you to learn languages… but whichever one came first for me, I’m certainly happy they keep feeding off each other.
So go ahead, tackle a new language, just start with a few words – you never know where it’ll take you.
Nine year old Ben Fawcett will be cutting short his family holiday in Disneyworld to take part in this month’s Junior Language Challenge final.
Ben, who is the first pupil from Oakwood School near Chichester to get through to the final, had been due to be in Florida when the final of EuroTalk’s JLC takes place on October 21st.
His mum, Anna, says: “The timing couldn’t have been worse for us. We’re taking the children to Disneyworld for two weeks but Ben and I are only going for one week because the final is in the middle of our planned holiday.
“He’s disappointed but we gave him the choice and he said, ‘No Mummy, I’ve come this far – I want to do it,’ and I’m happy to fly back with him. But the timing couldn’t have been worse. We arrive back the day before the competition so he’ll probably be jet-lagged…”
Holiday plans apart, entering the competition has been a good thing for the Fawcetts.
Anna adds: “Children from Oakwood have made it through to the semi-finals before but not to the finals so Ben’s as proud as a peacock! It’s been really good for his confidence not just with languages but generally. He’s thoroughly enjoyed the competition and I’ve hardly had to remind him to look at the games.”
Having picked up some of the basics of Portuguese and Kazakh in the first two rounds of the competition, Ben is now one of around 40 finalists trying to get to grips with the last JLC language, Luganda.
Anna adds: “I’m obviously extremely proud of him but it’s completely nerve-wracking as well!”
We’re looking forward to seeing Ben and Anna at the final, which will be held at the Language Show next Friday.
Ben’s even made the local paper!
Are there any other semi-finalists out there who’d like to share their JLC story?