Posted on April 17, 2015

SELF: Learning another language


I’m currently absolutely obsessed with language learning, which is a surprise to myself since up until about 6 weeks ago I was always saying ‘I really really really want to learn another language…. but I just can’t be bothered putting in the effort required to actually learn a language’. I hear this a LOT from many people so I’m guessing it’s a common problem?!

I currently only speak English waaaaa, but like many Muslims born into a Muslim household I grew up learning Arabic from random aunties, uncles and imams, and then one (amazing) sheikh with my siblings, so while I can read, write and can understand very basic conversation in Arabic, I can’t speak it or understand what I’m reading or writing …!

I also listen to my mum speak to me in Malay and answer back to her in English, learnt Indonesian in high school, and then about 10 years ago started learning French, which I’ve been half heartedly learning ever since.

I always felt like I had to have an amazingly useful reason to justify putting in the hours and hours required for learning another language, e.g. for work purposes, or because you’re moving to that particular country, which I think really put me off ever even really starting. However, recently on a big family trip to Vietnam I was totally inspired by my amazing language-loving brother, Imran.

He had continued on with his Arabic studies (although I distinctly remember him falling asleep in every one of our Arabic lessons when we were kids hah), became fluent, and started his online Arabic learning course Arabic Made in China. In Vietnam while I was busy thinking about the food and shopping he was busy learning phrases and numbers in Vietnamese. Then when we were actually out eating and shopping, and I was getting by with English no worries, he would be there chatting away in Vietnamese with the locals who thought he was a local as well, and he was loving it – this is when I had a little lightbulb ‘duh’ moment – you don’t need an amazing reason to learn another language other than just for the fun of it and to increase our knowledge in some capacity 😀

The crazy perfectionist in me relaxed and that’s when I decided (along with my sister), THAT’S IT, we’re learning one of those languages!!!

So in the past few weeks I’ve been putting in at least an hour a day of French learning, and have started to read and understand books and TV shows all in French…I’ll be updating my progress on the blog iA, and of course I have to practice speaking more!!! If anyone feels like speaking French with me (slowly eek), msg meee!

Anyways after all that, although we don’t need a reason to learn another language, I always feel good after making a list hehe – so here’s 5 reasons to learn another language:

  1. Face fears and self-doubt

Fortunately or unfortunately, language learning is all about making mistakes that you will eventually learn from and learning to be okay with making mistakes. This is my biggest challenge with learning another language, being a perfectionist it’s hard to go into something knowing all you will do for the first few weeks, months, and years is make mistakes and will keep on making mistakes, and that’s how you learn. But the awesome thing about this is that…you SHOULD make mistakes! It’ll only help you get better at whatever it is you are learning. Win!

  1. Increase your knowledge

Learning a language, is learning. “O my Lord! Increase me in knowledge” – Quran 20:114

  1. Learn about another culture

Books, art, blogs, TV shows, podcasts, news, magazines…consuming all of these in your target language only leads you to be more aware of what makes up the culture of that particular country or region.

  1. Gain an appreciation for how others try to learn your native language.

I watch a lot of Amazing Race episodes, and it always absolutely horrifies me whenever there is someone competing who is screaming at a taxi driver in a non-English speaking country to ‘HURRY UP’ and then screaming at them ‘WHY DON’T YOU SPEAK ENGLISH!!!’. It’s just so, so painful to watch. Now trying to express myself in another language and sounding like a 2 year old, has given me a lot more empathy for those trying to learn English. And I’ve also realized what a hard language English must be to learn!

  1. Gain a new accent 😀

It’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of the Australian accent. Since I was little I’ve always been a little obsessed with accents and remember secretly speaking to myself in what I thought was a Jamaican accent or a British accent, convinced that I’d somehow attain them after a few hours of practice…alas I’m still stuck with my Aussie accent but what I love about language learning is that by practicing new sounds which may not even exist in your first language, you are also working towards gaining another accent 🙂 Ok so this may not be such an awesome reason to many but the 7 year old me loves it!

And to end this post, I asked my language-inspirer brother Imran to let us know his thoughts on why we should all learn a new language and he says:

“Learning a new language is one of those things that people write down for their new years resolutions alongside getting fit and other things people put down but never really have the conviction to actually do it. Part of the reason is people give up before they even start. I teach Arabic but the same applies to learning any language.

I come across so many people that would love to learn Arabic, but then they qualify themselves by saying,‘I’m not good at languages’or ‘I tried once but it was too hard’. To a certain extent, if you’re living in a Western country like Australia, US or England, society trains us that being proficient in a second language can’t be done. So while most of us have to brainwash ourselves to believe that we can, I thoroughly believe that learning Arabic is an agent for change is so many people’s lives.

On the outset it seems like a really difficult language, and one of the joys of teaching it is seeing students achieve new levels in the language that they didn’t previously perceive were possible. Because when we achieve things that we didn’t contemplate were possible, it puts our thinking on a whole new level. And I think this helps for life in general.”

Dr Imran Lum is the founder of the online Arabic language program

If you love learning languages as much as we do, or you have any tips for us, we’d LOVE to hear from you!! Comment below or send us an email 🙂

-Marryam x

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  • Reply Alia June 15, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    What a coincidence! I’m planning to pick up arabic in Jeddah, in shaa Allah! 🙂 Pray for meeeee.

    • Reply lifeofmyheart June 16, 2015 at 10:31 am

      So awesome!! have a great time insha Allah, and all the best with picking up Arabic there! x

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