8/100: How learning languages changed my life

Despite being 100% Italian, mastering Italian as a second language always seemed impossible. The Italian teaching style in my school was stricter, clearly having fun was conducive to learning:
Tu es très bizarre. (French)
You are very odd.
as my French teacher would say.

Thanks to Japanese friends, I was intrigued by Japanese characters, sounds and grammar. How different the words were and yet how the syllabic pronunciation of its syllabaries (hiragana & katakana) reminded me of my mother tongue. One of my first sentences was:
きらいなぜならあなたはばか (hiragana - Japanese)
ki-ra-i na-ze-na-ra an-a-ta-wa ba-ka
I hate you because you are stupid. Well that’s nice, isn’t it? Languages are such great ways to make friends. Jokes aside, do learn some funny phrases! After a breakfast, with my visiting Chinese friends:
“Hey, I didn’t know you were so funny” – My mother </3
Fun and laughter, brought to you by Memrise, a spaced-recognition learning site, with some great phrases. In the premium version, you can always catch the spreading smiles of the locals, as they pronounce some of Memrise’s silly albeit useful phrases.

I started learning Mandarin Chinese a few years ago, thanks to a great teacher and fellow university Chinese students, volunteering their time for conversation practice. After a study programme in Shanghai, on mount Huà, outside of Xián, where the terracotta soldiers live, I smiled as I too made out the
鼻子 – bí-zi – nose
嘴巴 – zuǐ-bā – mouth
眼睛 – yǎn-jīng – eyes
of a cliff face, a woman was pointing out to her husband. I smiled, well that was worth learning.

Despite a healthy venture into Bollywood movies, two previous trips to India, I learned that:
ठीक है – theek hai – it’s okay (hindi)
isn't the best way, to thank a hosting Indian family for their food,
खाना बहुत अच्छा है (hindi) – khaana bahut achchha hai – the food is very good,
is more suitable.

Learning a language is learning a means of communication, and what is/was important to that group of people. Opening a door onto a fresh corridor of doors. It facilitates cultural appreciation, through consumption of diverse media, fulfilling travel opportunities and deeper conversations.


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