binoculars-354623_640We’ve all done it. Our perverse obsession with languages make us look for them everywhere. We start making decisions based on whether another language might be involved. The only things worthy of our attention have to have some ties to our linguistic need.

It might start small. Maybe the reason you became interested in languages was because of a film you saw or a book you read. As a child, I was interested in Japanese because my grandmother had been a missionary to Japan for seven years, and we got to go there when she returned there for a visit. I was (and still am) a science fiction geek, so when one day, my sister came rushing into my room, telling me there was a new song on the top 40 that had robots and Japanese, I couldn’t believe it. I told her that, yet still ran to hear what became my favourite song for many years, “Mr Roboto”, by Styx, with the common refrain “Domo arrigato, Mr Roboto”. That wasn’t what got me interested in languages, but it was certainly a shove.

Perhaps you started watching a film series to get your fix. While the James Bond film plots often seemed strained or even completely over the top, I used to watch these spy films to see the countries that were visited as well as to hear the languages that were sometimes used in them. This was before renting videos or watching films online became the norm.

The same approach could push you toward a television series. A friend of mine once posted how she watches a series here called “House Hunters International” for this reason. The premise is that someone is looking to buy a new house in a foreign country, and so they look at three properties, revealing their choice in the end. Interspersed with this is shots of the country and, if you are very lucky, someone speaking the local language.

Another series, a spy series about the CIA, has a female agent as the main character. I heard about “Covert Affairs” from a discussion at UniLang over how many languages she spoke. The actress didn’t speak all those languages, but her character did. When you are a language addict, that’s enough.

My favourite film, “L’auberge Espagnole”, is chock full of not only other languages (French and Spanish being the primary ones, because of where the film takes place) being spoken by the various characters, but there are even scenes which discuss language issues, even if just for a few minutes. One part talks about the conflict between Catalan and Spanish, another mentions Walloon and Flemish dividing Belgium. There is even a segment about forgetting your native language. While the film does contain a certain amount of sex, it’s this language porn which gets you excited!

But this intense focus isn’t just on the media. How many of you have been thrilled to find a work of fiction translated into the language you are learning, or even are just interested in? How many have some version of a Harry Potter book in a non-English format, even if you can’t understand a word of it? That is pure gold!

Do your relationships also become affected? Does that new person you meet suddenly quadruple in attractiveness when you discover they can speak even a few words in another tongue? Do you even consider dating someone who is monolingual? If you already are, do you try to impart on them how they “need” to learn another language? Have you considered leaving them because they don’t?

Perhaps, if you have pets, you attempt to train them using words in the language you are learning? Do you start learning the words for “sit” and “come, with the intentions of making your dog obey you, and thus making them, in your eyes, bilingual?

It can be a bit scary, realizing just how much your life focuses around your need for foreign languages. But then again, would you have it any other way? Could you?

Post about your own language voyeurism or obsessions in the comments section!

  • Oh, I can totally relate to this. Usually it’s just a tiny thing that sparks my interest in a language. Sometimes just because I meet somebody who speaks this language. Or because it sounds exotic. Or it’s spoken by a smaller community … there is always a good reason for learning a language 🙂

    • Erik Zidowecki

      I think the “meeting someone who speaks another language” is probably among the most common. I met some Irish exchange students while in college and loved hearing them speak it (although they rarely did… turns out many young Irish people don’t learn it, at least that is what one of them told me).