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Why do people learn a new language?

Language Learning versus Translations

During the course of developing Language Curry we deep dived into what motivates people to learn languages? In the age of instant translation and language globalization(English), why do people across the world spend time and money to learn a new language?

The Obvious Reasons

Just as we peel onions, the outer reasons unraveled themselves. People are travelling more for work and studies, spreading their roots in new countries and towns. Marriage infact has been one of the larger reasons of migration for women in India! Our generation has become more comfortable in marrying outside 'perceived' regional boundaries. And hence the need for picking up a new language.

And then it gets deeper!

But then isn't English the 'unifier' we asked? "Everyone speaks and understands English", we prodded. And then we got to the aha! moment. A very sweet Japanese lady told me, "You know, when we speak in English, everyone understands us. But when we speak in Hindi, there is a wonderful smile that reaches their eyes". Now how to do you explain that to (number crunching) experts!


After you peel away the outer layers(practical -work/study/marriage), and spend more time talking to people, the real reasons came up. The desire to form connections and understand (new) culture. To leave a lasting impression, to not make an unintentional mistake. We are driven by both, a desire to impress and the fear of being rude, to pick up learning the language of our colleagues/bosses/employers/neighbours. To play soccer with new buddies in a new state, to exchange parenting tips with fellow parents, or to even impress the 'sasu ma'!

On a different note, as a Hindi speaking young woman, I remember my first fumbling attempts at speaking Bangla quite a few years ago, 'Kemon Accho(aap kaise hain)' I would say, only to be told 'Kemon Acche(tum kaise ho)' can be used for elders too! What a liberating feeling it was, to be free from the tum, tu, aap conundrum!


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