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Lesson 2. Learning foreign languages

The importance of foreign language learning for personal development / Bilingual Family.

What is a language? – It is a form of information exchange, way of interaction and communication of all living things in the Universe. What does it mean to know a foreign language? – Some maximalists I belonged to previously myself would say that it means to read the classics in the original and understand word-play and humor. (I myself have lived in Germany for 12 years, am fluent in German and read German literature, though many of jokes in German remain a mystery to me. It is especially difficult to understand satirists speaking for the lack of knowledge of some cultural backgrounds, turns of speech, as well as childhood spent in this country). Someone less strict would say that knowledge of the language simply implies the ability to know it at the level of mere survival and communication with native speakers of the language – no matter with or without errors. That’s enough to feel secure and confident in today’s world.
After all, learning the language thoroughly educates and enriches a human mind and improves one’s self-esteem. Knowledge of English is particularly important today. It so happened that this language has become global, that is, at present it is the number one language in the world. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is its simplicity and sketchiness. Therefore, English is often the first language we learn.
And when a person in his or her store of knowledge already has the grammar of his or her first foreign language, the second foreign language will be mastered much faster and easier. It is very important to have language practice in the country of the language being learnt or communication with native speakers. After all, a language is not just a set of learned words and rules – is a national culture, a special distinctive environment and mood, you have to tune in to it to be able to communicate in that language. The new language should be absorbed through the eyes, ears and feelings, and then learning will be very quick. From this point of view it is highly recommended to watch good movies, and listen to your favorite songs in foreign language.
With regard to bilingual families, I can give you an important tip, proven by experience – in a bilingual household (where the parents speak different native languages) it is important to respect the rule “one parent – one language”. That is, each parent should talk with their child strictly on one – his or her native – language. Once this rule is violated and the parent begins to mix the languages, to speak with the child, for example, now in Russian, than in German, the child quickly becomes accustomed to the fact that it is not necessary to switch over and speaks a language that is easier for him, and even if a parent later would refer to him in his or her native language, the child no longer would strain to pick up words and would respond in the language which it is easier for him.
This is a situation I observe in Germany every day. The fact remains that the language of the society in which the child lives is learned faster – it’s quite natural. After all, it is the language the child hears around him, it is spoken by his peers and friends. That is, in the case of my children, it’s German. That’s why it was important for me not to give up and not to lose heart, hearing my children speak Russian with an accent. It disappears when they are on vacation in Russia and appears again when they come back to Germany. An interesting fact is that my Slavic accent, unfortunately, even after 12 years in Germany does not want to disappear.
I would advise everyone to start learning a foreign language as early as possible, including exercises for learning language atmosphere and ear training through travels, meetings, socializing, movies, music … It is never too late to start learning anything new, including languages. It is important to do so with pleasure, have a definite purpose of study (say, for example, the upcoming trip to Italy) and not be afraid to make mistakes. In addition to attending lessons – advertise and find a partner from the country of the language being learnt – meet and share knowledge – half an hour in one language – and half an hour in the other one. You’ll see how fast it goes! Good luck to you!

Author – Olga Maurer, born in 1973. Graduated from Moscow State University, Institute of Asia and Africa. Holder of a Master’s degree in Oriental studies and historian. Native language is Russian. Speaks German, English, Korean and some French. Since 2000 lives with her husband in Germany and has two children.