Monday, October 3, 2011

Dilemmas of a language lover

Once again I've become a victim of perplexity about which language I should pay attention to the most. I dont have time to learn all the languages I want to learn. On one hand, my practical nature tells me to learn what I might find useful, what I might use in the nearest future. On the other hand, learning languages is my hobby, and hobby not necessarily has to be a practical thing. 

Does someone who collects postcards or leaden soldiers even wonder whether they will ever use them in any practical purpose? No, they rather collect them for the pleasure of collecting in itself, or for the pleasure of showing their little treasures to someone from time to time.


Lets return to the languages. Is it better to learn French, which may come in handy when traveling not only to France but also for example to Morocco or other countries where it's still widely used? Furthermore, French might be useful in my work.
Or is it better to continue studying for example Hindi, which I like visually (wonderful shapes of the Devanagari letters) and sonically? Though I guess I will probably never have an occasion to use this language again. I can say a few things in Hindi, I can even write them down. My knowledge of this language, though modest, arouse a great wonder and a true admiration when I went on a holiday to India last year. It earned me a favor of many guides and vendors who might have treated me better than other tourist – because of that.
I wont mention the admiration with which new friends look at me when they hear that I know a little Hindi. I know Im vain. But who is not? A little vanity has never done any harm to anyone. Butis it worth years of studying for just a short moment ofglory”? The years that could be spent on more practical languages?

Learn or not to learn? That is the question. This could be, in my caseI assume not only in mine – a paraphrase of the eternal Hamlet's dilemma. Lately I ask myself this question more often. Unfortunately, there's no correct answer. At least not in my case. If I were a businessman, I would probably look at this matter quite differently, and I would learn the language/s of my business partner/s. But as I learn for pleasure, I look at it differently.
Recently however, the practical side of me is stronger. So I decided to recall the basics of French, which I learned many years ago. It is not the most important and interesting language for me (je suis désolé), thus I put it off.

This morning on my way to work I've started a solid repetition of what I once planted in my brain. It’s not that bad anyway. Maybe I will watch some news on France24 tonight.
And yetI wouldn't like to lose those months I spent on Hindi or recently on Swahili. Just in case, I wont hide deep in the cellar my textbooks for these two languages. Maybe, if they stand on a shelf next to the desk at which I work every day, I will take them again in my hands and discover anew the pleasure of reading beautifully shaped Devanagari letters or listening to the exotic sounds of the peoples of Kenya and Tanzania
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