The saying learning a new language will broaden your horizon never really made sense to me. How could learning some vocabulary and grammar broaden anything but my level of confusion? Since I am learning Greek I do have the feeling that learning a language is more than just rehearsing words and their meaning. If you haven’t noticed by now, I am spending my days in a Greek village currently which is more helpful for language learning than living in a city, since you get to talk around more often and have fewer possibilities to switch to English.
Now, I can say this only concerning Greek but I can imagine it is similar to any other new language.
At first, it is damn hard, especially if you start from zero. In my case, I started like a child, reading vocals and not even real words. I learned words like woman, man, child and this feels like being stuck because I thought I would never be good enough to even say a real sentence. How could I ever learn those words that gave me absolutely no associations?
In Greek I had not only to learn new words but also a new letters which increased the difficulty. My mnemonics were so out of the blue sometimes that I had to remember them as well.
Learning a language from zero
Next to all the issues that let my motivation sink low, I kept on going and after weeks of learning with Duolingo (no paid promotion, but this app is great for language learning) and writing out common words and phrases that I could need, (There is always a list of the most useful words for each language) I was getting better and better. Translating sentences that were short and used frequently, was a good way to learn but also to ask people. In fact, only here I realised that I can explain myself sometimes with a few words. Actually 50 words are sufficient in the beginning, you just have to combine them creatively.
Don’t be shy to ask, you can only get an answer
Even if I know I will forget (I try not to though). I am always asking about meanings and so I started asking in Greek. Besides, that makes it easier for people to answer in Greek, too! I keep having some kind of progress even if it’s little.
Hidden inside words
So, with all my effort I got a glimpse of the dimension of the Greek language and I realised how much is hidden of it in the words we use, scientifically but also in trivial language sometimes. It was so remarkable for me, though now I think, it is somehow obvious because Greek is one of the oldest languages in the world and many scientific terms come from Ancient Greek, like the word „soma” meaning body and also being the term for the body of a cell. „Chronos” means time which is also being used for example in the word „chronic”. „Chroma” is colour, I am thinking here of „chromatography” a term in chemistry where liquids being separated with help of colouring. It goes on and on and this kind of knowledge makes me actually think like I am learning something.
Get creative with words
Also, a new language enhances your creative thinking (that’s what I hope at least) because seeing new words makes you wonder (in the best case) what they could mean, what they sound like. „Krima” sounds like cream to me but it actually means „pity”. „Fusta” sounds like someone is exhausting and exclaims „Fusta!” but really it means skirt. I remember when I read the name of the café in front of our flat saying „s-chole-io”. It sounded so beautiful and magical to me and I just couldn’t find an association why this café had this specific name. Afterwards I got to know that it simply means „school” since there is a school at the end of the street. Wow. But at least I wondered. It’s good to not always search for the word but think yourself. Greek has more influence on our language than thought and vice versa.
Therefore, it is not a bad idea to learn a language, especially when you have time. You just have to know why and then all you need is curiosity and some people to guide you and with whom you can exchange.