Is it a waste of time to learn many languages in our lifetime?
Thread poster: XiaoZhiAn
Oct 22, 2012

I love languages very much, firstly I love my mother language——Chinese, then I fall in love with English and French and German. But after so many years, my French is not good, German is not good, then Ich bin in Gedanken——Why I waste so much time to learn them? I should focus on learning English, and be as good as the natives. My profession has nothing to do with languages, it is call, Human Resources Management. But I love learning languages, it is a joy for me to read and listen Germa... See more
I love languages very much, firstly I love my mother language——Chinese, then I fall in love with English and French and German. But after so many years, my French is not good, German is not good, then Ich bin in Gedanken——Why I waste so much time to learn them? I should focus on learning English, and be as good as the natives. My profession has nothing to do with languages, it is call, Human Resources Management. But I love learning languages, it is a joy for me to read and listen German.

But, it is revolting that I should think I could never learn them well. Even I determined to learn only German and English, never again will I learn a French word, still I feared I wouldn't have enough time.

Life is short, and art is long, esp when such art may cost you a lifetime, so before you start your journey, you should think thrice. Now my heart's distracted. Should I give up German? Just learn English, it is enough for me to communicate with the whole world. I can hardly find someone who can speak German here, why I am so stupid and spend so much time on German? Perhaps I should do anything else, such as read more English books and learn the art of writing.

One of my dreams is to write a book in another language, and I am young, I am a student, I believe I could fulfill my dream, there's long way to go in my life.

What should I do? What do you think?
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Sigrid Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:54
Member (2011)
Danish to German
+ ...
Simple answer Oct 22, 2012

The answer is very simple if you ask me - do what truely makes you happy! If you enjoy the learning process itself and enjoy reading/talking/writing/hearing many languages, why not learn as many as you want to. If you on the other hand really want to complete the goal itself to be as good as possible (you will never be as good as a native and even for those it´s still a constant learning process with new spelling/grammar rules, new words, word art.... be aware of that!) in 1 language, then focu... See more
The answer is very simple if you ask me - do what truely makes you happy! If you enjoy the learning process itself and enjoy reading/talking/writing/hearing many languages, why not learn as many as you want to. If you on the other hand really want to complete the goal itself to be as good as possible (you will never be as good as a native and even for those it´s still a constant learning process with new spelling/grammar rules, new words, word art.... be aware of that!) in 1 language, then focus on that. This would in my opinion mean go live in the country the language is spoken in. It´s not only about the language, it´s about understanding the culture.

Hope that helps a bit
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XiaoZhiAn
TOPIC STARTER
Yes indeed Oct 22, 2012

it helps a lot, thank you!

 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:54
Russian to English
+ ...
Hi. XiaoZhi. If you love languages, nothing is a waste of time, even if you had to spend your entire Oct 22, 2012

life time learning them. If someone does not love languages, and just sees them as a good professional opportunity, I personally think, any minute is a waste of time. Good luck with all your languages. Exposure is very important, if you want your competence to become perfect.









[Edited at 2012-10-22 14:24 GMT]


 
You sound a little like me. Oct 22, 2012

I speak five languages, even though I can say six, because I already know so much Italian too (since two of the languages I speak are French and Spanish). German is the only one left I want to learn, and a lot of times, I wonder whether I should learn it or not.

I don't think that it's a waste of time to learn many languages. The more you know, the better. However, my case is different. I have been successful at learning those languages.

Posting a new topic kind of sim
... See more
I speak five languages, even though I can say six, because I already know so much Italian too (since two of the languages I speak are French and Spanish). German is the only one left I want to learn, and a lot of times, I wonder whether I should learn it or not.

I don't think that it's a waste of time to learn many languages. The more you know, the better. However, my case is different. I have been successful at learning those languages.

Posting a new topic kind of similar to this one, has been on my "to do list". I hope we get some good advices as I am wondering if I should learn German, or just stick with the ones I already speak. I do enjoy learning new languages and knowing that it's the last one I have to learn, I will probably learn it possibly quicker than the other ones. The only problem I can think of is that adding German to the current five or six might be too many languages for me. It means adding one more word to the current five or six I now have. I'm afraid it's going to get confusing.
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Anna Sarah Fazendeiro
Germany
Local time: 22:54
Member (2011)
English to German
+ ...
Obsessed with learning... Oct 22, 2012

I can understand your dilemma, although my problem are not languages - it is everything. I am so curious that I just want to learn everything, from baking bread to statistics. I try to accept that in this way it is very unlikely to become a true master of anything and at same time try to limit the number of new things that I add to the list. But I just as well enjoy the fact that I am building a very broad base of knowledge where in many cases some skill I have learnt helps me to master another,... See more
I can understand your dilemma, although my problem are not languages - it is everything. I am so curious that I just want to learn everything, from baking bread to statistics. I try to accept that in this way it is very unlikely to become a true master of anything and at same time try to limit the number of new things that I add to the list. But I just as well enjoy the fact that I am building a very broad base of knowledge where in many cases some skill I have learnt helps me to master another, although they might be completely unrelated.

I sometimes envy people that can stick to one topic and don't have their lives cluttered with a million interests.

I don't think learning two languages is too many - maybe it yould make you feel better if you chose a language that is spoken by more people than German, like Spanish or Portuguese? I know the bad feeling when I spend time doing something that I consider useless, could that be your problem with German?
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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 04:54
Chinese to English
Not a waste of time Oct 22, 2012

You mention two ideas in your post: one is the "journey"; the other is the purpose of learning a language (to talk to someone? read something? write something...)

You might learn a language for a specific purpose - for your work, for a loved one, because you want to live there.

But you might learn a language because it's a journey you enjoy, without worrying about the endpoint. German is beautiful and fun and knotty and fascinating. Learn it because you love learning it
... See more
You mention two ideas in your post: one is the "journey"; the other is the purpose of learning a language (to talk to someone? read something? write something...)

You might learn a language for a specific purpose - for your work, for a loved one, because you want to live there.

But you might learn a language because it's a journey you enjoy, without worrying about the endpoint. German is beautiful and fun and knotty and fascinating. Learn it because you love learning it, and don't imagine you need a purpose.
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Enrico C - ECLC  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 04:54
English to Italian
+ ...
I have some doubts Oct 23, 2012

XiaoZhiAn wrote:

I love languages very much, firstly I love my mother language——Chinese, then I fall in love with English and French and German. But after so many years, my French is not good, German is not good, then Ich bin in Gedanken——Why I waste so much time to learn them? I should focus on learning English, and be as good as the natives. My profession has nothing to do with languages, it is call, Human Resources Management. But I love learning languages, it is a joy for me to read and listen German.

But, it is revolting that I should think I could never learn them well. Even I determined to learn only German and English, never again will I learn a French word, still I feared I wouldn't have enough time.

Life is short, and art is long, esp when such art may cost you a lifetime, so before you start your journey, you should think thrice. Now my heart's distracted. Should I give up German? Just learn English, it is enough for me to communicate with the whole world. I can hardly find someone who can speak German here, why I am so stupid and spend so much time on German? Perhaps I should do anything else, such as read more English books and learn the art of writing.

One of my dreams is to write a book in another language, and I am young, I am a student, I believe I could fulfill my dream, there's long way to go in my life.

What should I do? What do you think?


If you fall in love with too many languages at once and can't focus on any of them for the right amount of time (at least 2 or 3 years for western languages, much longer for Chinese, i am noticing, especially if you work full time as i do). And if what makes you happy is German, stop French and focus on German till it's rooted in your mind and then go to the next one. Learning too many languages at once is a waste of time overall. I know cases of people claiming they can speak 6 or 7 languages but in actual fact they can't speak any of them at a really proficient level. Focus on one and go for that. 加油!

[Edited at 2012-10-23 06:25 GMT]


 

Stanislaw Czech, MCIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:54
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
SITE LOCALIZER
Business or pleasure Oct 23, 2012

It's not a waste of time. You just need to have clear idea why you are doing that. If it is for your pleasure than do it in time and using resources which you normally would allocate to hobby, if it is business than you can be more generous with resources.

Best Regards
S


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 22:54
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Never a waste of time Oct 23, 2012

Life is full of surprises, and you never know what is round the next corner.

I learnt French and German when I was young, and enjoyed them a lot, although it varied at different periods how much I imagined I would make use of them. They did prove useful stepping stones to further studies as well as being fascinating in their own right. But I have very rarely used them professionally.

Now I can get far more out of a television programme in French or German, even if I do
... See more
Life is full of surprises, and you never know what is round the next corner.

I learnt French and German when I was young, and enjoyed them a lot, although it varied at different periods how much I imagined I would make use of them. They did prove useful stepping stones to further studies as well as being fascinating in their own right. But I have very rarely used them professionally.

Now I can get far more out of a television programme in French or German, even if I do peek at the subtitles, than if I depended on the subtitles alone.

When travelling, I can show willing when I meet people whose English does not come easily. If we both struggle a little, we manage to say a lot more than we would otherwise, if they had to 'compete' with my native English.

The more you study other languages, the better you understand your own. I have found it very true, and each language gives a new perspective. That alone is a reason to study languages, and it will never be a waste of time.

You will never learn a language perfectly, even your own, and whatever you study, there is always more to learn. But that is only another reason to keep trying! And those half-forgotten languages come back more easily if you need them, than beginning from scratch.

Studying without strain promotes mental health, and speaking several languages delays cognitive deterioration in old age...

Does anyone know any reasons NOT to learn a new language?
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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:54
Russian to English
+ ...
For professional purposes, it is better to know two languages really well, than five a little bit. Oct 23, 2012

If someone wants to learn languages because they love them -- just for fun, they can learn as many as they want to, and spend as much time on it as they find pleasurable. It is not better by any means, in my opinion, to translate from and to multiple languages than to concentrate on perfecting two languages. This is a misconception, in my opinion, that the more languages some people use for translation, the better translators they are. It may be true that some people can translate really well fr... See more
If someone wants to learn languages because they love them -- just for fun, they can learn as many as they want to, and spend as much time on it as they find pleasurable. It is not better by any means, in my opinion, to translate from and to multiple languages than to concentrate on perfecting two languages. This is a misconception, in my opinion, that the more languages some people use for translation, the better translators they are. It may be true that some people can translate really well from and to a few languages, but such cases are really rare.







[Edited at 2012-10-23 12:31 GMT]
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XiaoZhiAn
TOPIC STARTER
Thank You very much Oct 23, 2012

Christine Andersen wrote:

Life is full of surprises, and you never know what is round the next corner.

I learnt French and German when I was young, and enjoyed them a lot, although it varied at different periods how much I imagined I would make use of them. They did prove useful stepping stones to further studies as well as being fascinating in their own right. But I have very rarely used them professionally.

Now I can get far more out of a television programme in French or German, even if I do peek at the subtitles, than if I depended on the subtitles alone.

When travelling, I can show willing when I meet people whose English does not come easily. If we both struggle a little, we manage to say a lot more than we would otherwise, if they had to 'compete' with my native English.

The more you study other languages, the better you understand your own. I have found it very true, and each language gives a new perspective. That alone is a reason to study languages, and it will never be a waste of time.

You will never learn a language perfectly, even your own, and whatever you study, there is always more to learn. But that is only another reason to keep trying! And those half-forgotten languages come back more easily if you need them, than beginning from scratch.

Studying without strain promotes mental health, and speaking several languages delays cognitive deterioration in old age...

Does anyone know any reasons NOT to learn a new language?






Now I feel much relaxed after reading your reply. Life is simple, but to be simple is difficult. Therefore, we should not make life more complicated ourselves, do enjoy what we could enjoy. I will stick to German and English, I am confident and I am sure, I will never give up.


 


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Is it a waste of time to learn many languages in our lifetime?

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