Marlowe Evans

Being Young: Lost in translation

Learning a second language will always be useful.

There are some skills people say are best learned when young, and one of them is language proficiency.

I’ve been told many times that it’s important to learn a second language ‘while I still can.’

Although I believe it’s possible to learn no matter your age (and that, perhaps, what we lack when we’re older is the spare time necessary to dedicate ourselves to the study of a new thing), I do believe that learning multiple languages is increasingly important in our rapidly changing social and political landscape.

Sometimes it’s assumed that because many people outside of Canada choose to learn English as their second language, learning a second one isn’t useful to someone whose first language is English.

Not true.

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As someone who speaks English and French fluently, there are some things, such as poetry or special expressions, that I find absolutely lovely, but that can’t be translated between the two languages.

When speaking to people who are francophone, I learn all kinds of nuances of expression that I would never have otherwise known and that genuinely enrich my experience with literature and films, especially.

I went to France, and I didn’t have to wait in the extra-long lines for English tours of museums or historic sites.

That was a major bonus.

For French, I definitely have my parents to thank– immersion was a wonderful experience.

I didn’t have any trouble at all in Europe and had an absolutely wonderful experience every place I went.

I’ve even made friends specifically because of French since I’ve been at school– several lovely international students who’ve taught me all kinds of amazing things I’d never have known if it weren’t for my second language.

It’s not just French from which I benefited either – last year I learned to read basic Latin.

I know Latin is a dead language, but do you know what’s really amazing? Being able to read all the fancy mottos on crests, as once again, there are things that get lost in translation.

Just because not many people speak or understand a language, doesn’t mean it can’t be useful or engaging.

There are many ways to learn a language, and many reasons for doing so.

I tried to learn a little bit of Irish, just to connect back with my family roots.

When I was younger, I tried to learn Russian so I could be an astronaut (I was very upset when they cancelled the shuttle program, and was convinced that I needed to learn either Mandarin or Russian to be able to go to space).

No matter the reason, learning a second language will always be useful, even if it’s just to be able to understand extra channels on TV.

There are a number of easy-to-use apps and online language programs that can be used to learn languages, and there are even group lessons available sometimes at the public library, or through private tutors.

Go forth and learn.

Marlowe Evans is a student at the University of New Brunswick from Maple Ridge who writes about youth issues.

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