“I was really touched when you decided to speak Japanese to me. It made me feel like home.”
These are the words that my friend Misaki, a Japanese foreign exchange student, said to me after having talked to her in her native language. Learning a second language is one of the best ways to connect to someone who’s first language is not English. It can also open up new opportunities for you as well as help you grow as a person.
Learning a second language can be a daunting task. Here are some helpful tips to guide you in your language learning journey.
How to Decide on a Language
This is the first step you’ll need to take in your journey. It can be one of the toughest choices to make as well. The best way to approach this is to ask yourself why you want to learn a second language.
Do you want to have a career or business in a foreign country? Are you interested in that foreign country’s culture and history? Is your family from a non-English speaking country, and you want to connect with your heritage? There are many reasons for someone to want to learn a second language. Identifying what drives YOU to want to learn a foreign language is the most important first step.
Once you have decided on why you want to learn a second language, it’s time to pick a language. Many people are tempted to pick a language that is “easy” rather than a language that has value to them.
This is the single biggest mistake you can make.
If you want to be able to keep with your studies and not shrug it off down the road, it is imperative you actually WANT to learn the language you choose. The best language to learn is one you share a connection with that also aligns with your future goals.
How to Stick to Learning Your Language
It’s not uncommon for people, especially busy college students like ourselves, to start learning a language only to give up a month in. Thankfully there are several tricks to help prospective language-learners maintain their passion and drive for learning the language.
First and foremost, if your language is offered at West Chester you should 100% be taking the class. Learning in a classroom setting is one of the best ways to not only keep yourself accountable, but to also meet new people with the same interest as you who can help you along your journey.
If West Chester doesn’t offer your language, then the next best thing to do is to set goals for yourself. It can be as simple as learning at least 5 new words a week, to something as complex as learning a new phrase every day. The beauty of setting personal goals is that you can set your own pace and learn at the speed that is best for you.
There are also many amazing resources at places like the library or campus book store that you can pick up for cheap. You can borrow many of the textbooks for free at the library. This can really help when not every online source is trustworthy.
Why You Want to Learn a New Language
Now that you have a good starting point for learning a new language, let’s look at some of the benefits that come with language learning.
The first big reason many Media and Communications students learn a second language is how well it pairs with our majors. By being able to create, relate to, and consume content in a second language, MDC and COM majors have an immediate advantage in the industry.
Networking and making new friends are also big advantages that come with knowing a second language. Many study abroad/foreign exchange students need to make an entirely new friend group when they come to our school. There’s no better way to connect with someone than to speak with them in their native language.
Not to mention the plethora of opportunity that comes as well. Translation, teaching, content localization, and even marketing positions are all looking for bilingual applicants to fill these rolls.
In my personal experience, I have been learning Japanese here at West Chester University for 4 years now, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the friends and opportunities it has given me. There are so many ways to engage with your language at all levels of understanding.
From clubs to tutoring, taking that first step and deciding to learn a second language has helped me grow not only as a student and MDC major, but as an individual as well.