English is My Native Language - And Here's Why I Learn 3 Others Too.

[ed.] Welcome to Angel Armstead, one of the new writers at Fluent. This is her first post, a fascinating story of how this American realised how much fun other languages are. Her language combination is awesome: Japanese, Mandarin, Russian!

english other languages

I Speak English So I Don't Need Another Language

Growing up I didn’t hear much about learning a foreign language. I did hear these sentiments expressed:

“I speak English so I don’t need another language”

“If you want to speak to me, speak English” or

“This is America, we speak English here.”

Family, friends and associates have asked me why I would waste my time learning another language when my first is spoken widely around the world. Sadly for a while I felt the same.

I first got an interest in foreign languages when I heard Spanish spoken. A friend of mine and I went to the library and picked up a few Spanish books. It was fun learning new words. Unfortunately I didn’t stick with it because I got along just fine with only English. It wasn’t until I got interested in the Japanese language that I really decided to ignore the mantra of “English only” that I had heard from many people.

When I got interested in studying Japanese, things were different. I really wanted to know everything about that language. I fell in love with the writing system (even if I complain about the Kanji sometimes), traditional culture, and the way the language sounds. Later my interest moved towards pop culture (anime, music and video games.) Although I had played video games before, I just never had played them in a language other than English. So far it’s the only language that I’m studying where I have bought movies, games, books and anything I can find in its language. I do think a big part in learning a language is your passion for that language. Once I had the passion for Japanese no excuse to continue with just English were relevant to me.

What If I Fail At Learning A Language?

There is one idea I have always had in my mind. It’s one of my reasons that I think held me back the most from learning a second language after I'd studied Japanese.

The idea is this: I’ve met many people who have tried to learn a second foreign language and failed. As a result they gave up language learning altogether. That made me think that maybe your second foreign language in some ways is your most important foreign language and deserves a lot of attention.

It's Becoming A Habit

Originally before I started learning Japanese I had planned to learn Mandarin Chinese but I didn’t pursue it, because I thought it was impossible as a choice for a second language. I even took classes in Mandarin but had to quit because of the location of the classes. I took Japanese in college for over three years. Their hardest script Kanji is borrowed from China. As a result I ended up learning some Mandarin Chinese words anyway. It does sometimes feel like I’m learning two languages when I’m working on the writing system.

Almost anyone who knows me knows I am in love with the Japanese language. I don’t think it’s just because of the anime, movies and culture. I think that the Japanese language was the language that showed me that I could actually do this. I don’t think I would have the interest I have in foreign languages if it wasn’t for Japanese. I can read all of the kana, speak conversationally and read at least 500 of the kanji. That was a major confidence booster as far as languages are concerned.

Russian is now my latest language interest. I used to joke with friends in college about learning Russian. The good thing about friends in college is that they only knew me after I was truly into languages. So for me to tell them that I was considering learning Russian wasn’t a big deal. This is probably the only one of the three that I listened to on YouTube videos before deciding I wanted to learn more of it. I just started learning Russian & Mandarin full time as I had been putting them off for years. I was really motivated when I came across the #add1challenge, my inspiration me to really work more on Russian and Chinese. Japanese was already an everyday thing.

If my past self as a child saw me now they probably wouldn’t believe that I finally pursued an interest in foreign languages. I used to think the furthest I could go in another language was greetings! I still have a ways to go with Japanese, Mandarin Chinese & Russian but I am much further even in Russian than I ever thought I could be. I even have future plans for other languages such as Spanish, German & Arabic. Once you start..

Which languages are you holding yourself back from?

[ed.] I think Angel's story is inspiring and shows one thing in particular: Most of us are holding ourselves back from success, for fear of failure. If you really want to get started with a language, ask yourself:

Which discoveries are you holding yourself back from?

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