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Learn Another Language. . .

A second, third, or even fourth language besides the one you grew up speaking will open you up to all kinds of new possibilities and experiences.

Enjoyed one of those all-too-rare linguistic experiences the other day during my horror cinema class as a small group of students led the day's discussion on the wonderfully creepy Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In (2008).  Early on, the people leading discussion at the front of the room had trouble pronouncing a few of the Swedish cast and crew members' names that they had projected onto the screen at the head of the room and asked for help. 

In my best Stockholm Swedish accent, I supplied the necessary information, and then proceeded to say a few simple things to them in Swedish before switching over to Norwegian for a few moments. Once all 15 students in the class had picked up their lower jaws from the floor and settled down again, one young woman asked, "How many languages do you speak?" I replied that I had varying abilities in eight besides English, which absolutely knocked them for six as the British say. 

Pandemonium reigned again for several minutes as they digested that. Maybe not a big deal to people who have grown up elsewhere and gone through different school systems where languages (and grammatically more complex ones at that) are given a much higher priority than here in the good ol' US of A, but in my tiny corner of the American Midwest, it blew 'em out of the water, to put it lightly. 

However, I occasionally stumble across an article about some linguist somewhere or other in the world, who has fluency in 40 or 50 languages, and suddenly I don't feel so smug or accomplished anymore.  To paraphrase Kermit the Frog, it's not easy being an aspiring polyglot.  

The point is, though, that learning another language or two will set an average guy apart and help make him, well, not so average anymore, which isn't a bad thing after all.  Linguistic competence in another language besides English is just one more tiny way to kick up your everyday style a few notches.  Try it and see.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

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