Why would you start learning a new language and how would you decide which new language that would be? These are two questions I asked one of our new students who very enthusiastically came into the East Melbourne Language Centre as a student for the first time. Susan had decided that she wanted to start learning French! We are always interested in everyone’s motivations for learning a new language and why in particular they chose the language they did. So, I asked her why she chose French, especially having straight away confessed, nervously, to knowing no words in French aside from the really very basic like oui, bonjour, café and croissant (if the last two even count?!)
Previously, she had learnt German and had spent a lot of time in Berlin, among other places, where she gained new insights into the German language and culture. This meant that she had come to highly value learning a new language as well as the friendships and cultural insights that she had gained along the way. Having moved from Germany back to Melbourne, she had been missing having all her international friends around her and being constantly exposed to different languages and cultures. Until she met a number of lovely French friends! So, a few months ago, for the first time, she became close friends with two French woman and two French men who were working in Melbourne. They became such good friends that she promised to visit them in Paris and Toulouse.
One of the things that her French friends regularly commented on, was how glad they were for the opportunity in Melbourne to improve their English, because otherwise, they would never have been able to become good friends with any of the English-speaking people in Melbourne, or elsewhere for that matter. This got Susan thinking that the same applies for her: unless she learnt French, she would never be able to communicate with the rest of the non-English speaking French world. Besides, having promised to visit them in Paris and Toulouse next year, she decided that it was time to start learning French. One of the French girl’s parents speak no English and some of their friends also don’t. In order to have a ‘true French experience’ and not avoid making a whole crowd of French friends, in France, speak English together just because of her, she decided to do the only logical thing, and begin to open herself up to the French world through language.
But she also had other reasons for learning the language. A lover of literature, she believes that it is always best to read a novel in its original language. It is always best to get to know a person, their culture, their family and friends, and their way of thinking, through their native language. Besides, even if she never made it to France (which of course she will!), we can see, at the East Melbourne and German Language Centre, that just turning up once a week for a language class with other motivated students can be such a rewarding experience not only because it gives you a sense of accomplishment, having really stretched your brain to its full capacity, but also socially, the classes are friendly, communicative, and, ultimately, a lot of fun!
We just told her that we are going to organise a games night for all language learners. So, she will be even able to practise her German at the East Melbourne and German Language Centre….