Thank you very much for agreeing to participate in this interview— we look forward to your valuable insight! 😊
Why do you think it is important to study another language?
Because it is a wonderful window into a different way of living, looking at life, and thinking. Because it is so very rewarding. Because it is vital that everyone has the experience of operating outside their comfort zone, that we all understand how it feels to not always be able to express ourselves exactly how we would like to. I think this experience builds compassion and respect for others.
What languages do you speak? Which was the most difficult to learn, and how did you overcome the difficulty?
Fluent French, basic German, and bits of Spanish and Japanese. Japanese was hardest because of the different registers of language and of course because it is a character-based language. English has many influences from Latin and French (thanks to William the Conqueror) but it is also a Germanic Language, so parts of German were manageable. French of course was hard because it was the first foreign language I started to learn, and I didn’t know yet how to do that.
What is the best way for students to improve their language skills outside of school?
It is important to see learning a language as much more than a subject at school that has marks and grades attached. The language you are learning is used by millions of people all day, every day, in all aspects of life. The best way to learn outside class? Read, read, read; listen, listen, listen – the modern language student has access to so much that can help. Just do something every day that will have you come into contact with your language. Watch an episode of a TV series, listen to a song, read an article about your favourite activity, sport, actor, do a grammar exercise, talk to a friend about what happened at school today… something… anything. Make learning a language part of who you are, your personal development— not just a mark at school.
Any final words to people learning a new language?
Accept that you will probably always make little mistakes here and there; that’s fine, that means that you are still learning. Enjoy the challenge and have fun doing it!
Note from Interviewer: There are also various cognitive benefits of learning languages. People who speak more than one language have improved memory, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, enhanced concentration, and better listening skills. Additionally, as we physically age, being bilingual or multilingual can also help stave off mental aging and cognitive decline.