At University of Reading Open Days, the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies invites all our visitors to submit entries for a Blog Post Competition. This year’s topic was “Why study languages?”
The winning entry came from Meili Ellison. Congratulations to Meili.
Here’s what she wrote:
For me, choosing to study languages at university was the easiest, most obvious decision I’ve had to make in a long time. I’ve always had a passion to experience new cultures, travel as much as I can, and be in new far away locations (or “Fernweh” as the Germans call it). Speaking the language of a country -or attempting to- shows respect to the people you meet, and gives us the opportunity to live down the “English people are lazy at speaking other languages” stereotype!
Being born abroad in Hong Kong and living in China for the first part of my life is where my curiosity for other countries and cultures stems from. It gave me a taste for adventure overseas that I have never lost. Rubbing shoulders with people of all different backgrounds and beliefs ignited an enduring interest and inspired me to learn and experience as much as I could! Many of our family friends had international backgrounds, and as I grew up I learnt that those with languages had the richest experiences and the most success at work and in life.
Not only are languages interesting and useful in day to day situations, but in our increasingly globalised commercial world, they set you apart from the crowd. They open doors in the struggle for scarce jobs and put you in a strong position for employment. Employers know that language speakers have to be determined and intellectually strong, to tackle what they know to be a demanding and testing subject. Above all, speaking a foreign language places you on the international market, potentially giving you the opportunity to live and work abroad. What more could you want?
Last year I spent some time in Vienna working for a renowned Viennese company. Demmers Teehaus, on the Christmas Market (Christkindlmarkt) at Schönbrunn Palace. Here I had the opportunity to converse in German with the locals, in English and pidgin French with the tourists, and even was able to pick up a few words of Japanese from some visitors. From then on, whenever a Japanese person came to my stall, I greeted them in their own language, which definitely caught them by surprise! Seeing the joy it brought to them, and how grateful they were to see someone attempting to speak Japanese to them so far from home, gave me pleasure and really inspired me.
With speaking languages comes patience and respect. After experiencing at first hand how difficult it can be working and living in a foreign country and speaking another language, I respect people who have moved to Britain for the job opportunities much more. I will never look down on someone because his language skills are not perfect as I know how much effort it takes to learn a foreign language myself.
I truly believe that languages are an invaluable gift, a skill for life, and a joy forever.