One language or many?

Welcome back! First of all before we begin this post I’d like to apologise for my absence and lack of posts over the past few months. Unfortunately my work load increased so my time was mostly occupied with studying and revising in the library. However, I am all finished now, and can finally get back to language learning.

During my first year at university, I met many people who also spoke several languages or enjoyed language learning. I have made friends from Brazil, Portugal, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Poland, Russia and many other countries. I have also met people who have also studied languages, either out of interest or at school. The languages I seem to speak the most often nowadays are either German or Swedish. As a result of speaking these two languages most often, I am afraid my level in my other languages has somewhat slipped. This got me thinking, is it more beneficial to become proficient or even ‘fluent’ in one language?  Or should I continue to switch between various languages?

My initial plan this summer was to learn an entirely new languages, something along the lines of Arabic or Hindi. I then decided that the best thing to do would be to focus on one language, and only one. And that language is German. Whilst Swedish was the first foreign language I managed to teach myself and learn to a pretty high level, I feel German would be the most beneficial for me. I say this because ever since I can remember, I found German history fascinating and have always wanted to learn more about German culture. I began to study German around sometime last year and now I am having regular conversations on various topics. However, I am still very far away from being able to call myself ‘fluent’.

This brings me onto the main topic of today’s post, Is one language better than multiple languages?. Of course there are those such as Timothy Doner, Alex Rawlings or Richard Simcott who have learned multiple languages to extremely high levels of proficiency. And these people are idols to me, as they prove that language learning does not have to be a chore. I started down the path of language learning wanting to learn as many languages as I possibly could. Nowadays I only want to focus on one. When I ask myself whether one language would be better than multiple languages, I ask myself “which language would be the most beneficial to me?”. I have chosen to focus on German because I believe that it is the language which will the most beneficial for me and my chosen career. As Germany is the economic heart of Europe and the UK’s largest trading partner, it is my opinion that German would be the most useful for me. This may not be the case for everyone however, many of my friends are deciding to learn languages such as Spanish or Mandarin Chinese due to the number of speakers. Whereas other people are choosing to learn Russian due to recent events. Whatever the case may be, I think that if one wishes to study a language, try and choose one that either interests you, or would be beneficial. I am not saying that people shouldn’t learn multiple languages, it is certainly possible. I can speak five languages to varying degrees of fluency. However, because I am not using all of these languages on a regular basis, I am starting to forget them. 

Finally, the ‘one language or many’ debate is one that I believe only you can answer. Personally I have come to realise that I’d prefer quality over quantity, but that might not be for everyone. If there are people out there who wish to study multiple languages and can become fluent in them, then they have all my respect and admiration. If someone wishes to focus on one language and try their hardest to become fluent in that language then they also have my respect and admiration. Language learning is not easy, but it can be done by anyone. I do plan to learn other languages when I have the time, but currently my focus is German, and I can see it being my main focus for the foreseeable future. 

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About Elliot Conway

My name is Elliot Conway and I am recent graduate in International Relations from the University of Lincoln. My passion in life is learning, and encouraging others to learn foreign languages. This bog will contain posts about specific languages, my experiences learning languages, as well as helpful guides to help you become an efficient language learner.
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One Response to One language or many?

  1. Pingback: Setting yourself language learning goals | The life of a student polyglot

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