I discovered, surprisingly, that I had improved a lot in French when I was watching a Spanish TV series, La Casa de Papel. The first season was available on Netflix so I chose French audio and English subtitles, but for the second season I had to stream online. It is such a thrilling series that I couldn’t wait for Netflix to release it. Yet on the internet there was only Spanish audio and French subtitles. I sighed and said to myself, oh well, why not give it a try? And I found myself understanding almost all of the dialogues, even learning a few Spanish phrases as well.
People always say that language is important. I agree with that completely, but I’ve always felt that we should emphasize more on why, rather than only remarking that “it’s important”. Sometimes I find that people don’t put much effort into learning a language if they don’t realize what competitions are waiting for them out there, and what benefits languages can bring.
I am, myself, perfectly bilingual, thanks to the way my parents raised me, and the fact that I moved around when I was little. Both English and Chinese are my native languages as I was born in the United States. Moving to Shanghai was what prompted me to really learn to speak, write, and read Chinese. Moving again to Taiwan taught me the traditional Chinese that I didn’t know about in China. “You’ve lived everywhere!” exclaimed my friends. I’d chuckle and say that’s exaggerated, but the truth is I do have more homes than most people my age. Yet despite having crossed oceans to get to the next settling country, I spoke only two languages. On the other hand, a lot of my friends in France have been living in the same town ever since they were born, but speak more than two languages fluently because of the different origins of their parents and grandparents. If we add in more language lessons at school and friends from other European countries, they are already basic three-language speakers at such a young age.
It’s a natural thing in European households to have more than one language spoken regularly. That’s what I find to be very intriguing, how a child is brought up to be naturally bilingual without the parents purposely making it happen, without changing environments. If my parents didn’t speak English and insist on teaching me, I would’ve never been a bilingual person. Which is why I consider myself very lucky and blessed, that I had passed a much more different childhood than the others and acquired the habit of speaking both English and Chinese when I was just a toddler.
To improve myself more, I came to France. Some people ask me where I find the motivation to learn a new language, and I’d say it’s the friends I met in Europe. The fact that they are naturally multilingual is both amazing and scary – there are job opportunities for them almost everywhere, and when they hold conversations they can switch freely between all the languages they know. I want to be able to compete with them, or at least be on the same level.
To those who hesitate to learn a language, or don’t feel like working on it, I hope I can give you some motivation. Or maybe scare you into working on it, if you can realize how globalized and competitive our world has become. Don’t always stay in your comfort zone. Try to venture out and see the world. To do that, language is an important asset to have. Languages are like keys that unlock opportunities on the world map. One more language equals much more platforms for you to use your talents. And not just for work, but also for socializing better with people all around the world. Having friends of all origins is the not-so-new but still ongoing trend, and I don’t think it’s going to die down any time soon. It never hurts to take some time and learn to speak another tongue. It only adds more value to yourself and opens more doors for you.