“New York teen learns 20 foreign languages in just four years!” New York Daily News proclaims, complete with an exclamation point and just enough clickbait to entrance a prospective language learner. Newspapers across the country picked up on the same story, of New York native Timothy Doner who conquered twenty languages by the time he reached sixteen, simultaneously adding to and restricting all hope for linguistic ability.
Society promotes learning languages now more than ever, so much that learning more than five, officially titled polyglotism, makes the news and qualifies people to sell books preaching their methods. While learning twenty languages like Doner seems unreachable for most, it has never been easier for anyone to learn just one. With increased communication and technology, everyone can access language-learning programs and a wealth of resources, as well as others who speak the language. Furthermore, learning no longer coûte les yeux de la tête, (French, lit. costs the eyes of the head); expensive programs like Rosetta Stone claim notoriety, but companies offer all types of resources for free.
I have always loved learning languages; I am currently learning three — German, Russian, and Welsh — and always brushing up on French and Latin. When I began learning Welsh about two months ago, inspired by listening to a Welsh singer and my innate need to learn every language spoken, I did not believe I would find anywhere to learn the language without dishing out one hundred dollars.
I already used a fair amount of free resources for German, Russian, and French, but speakers across the world demand resources for them; Welsh does not play yn yr un cae (Welsh, lit. in the same field). Still, with research and a lot of experimenting, the Internet delightfully surprised me with a wealth of resources without a price tag that allowed me to dive in head first.
With campaigns for language learning diffused across the world, most people know the basics of how education and continued immersion helps the cognitive and creative functions of the brain, expands the first language, and opens up almost endless opportunities.
I will not continue to beat a dead horse, or volver a la misma canción (Spanish, lit. to return to the same song), but I will focus on the lesser known benefit which drives my passion for languages: the capacity for and beauty of communication. At first it may sound nerdy, but nothing fascinates me more than the ability to communicate, which allows for connections to almost every culture on Earth. Visiting a country and immediately feeling at home with the language helps cure travel nerves and testifies to the beauty of lingual diversity across the world. Even within the United States, a number of languages come together to form the lingual tapestry of the country, and only by learning and understanding the languages can one truly immerse themselves in the culture.
Yes, it takes effort and poses challenges, but in the end, whether fluent or not, access to languages means making an effort to better one’s cognitive ability and capacity to connect with society.