You’ve been told a dozen times the different reasons for learning a new language. It will open your mind to the world. It will allow you to communicate with many other people. It makes you smarter. It is good for your career. It makes you more attractive to others. It cures your insomnia. It tastes like chocolate.
But what about the reasons to not learn a language? They exist as well, although we may not want to admit to them. In an attempt to correct this imbalance, I will list here some of the top reasons that we should not learn attempt this.
1) It is hard
Picking up another language is a difficult task, requiring lots of memorization and training, talking and reading, and just plain thinking. This huge expenditure of energy might be better used in more rewarding pursuits. As an alternative to memorizing vocabulary, why not memorize the lyrics to the Lithuanian entry song to the 2006 Eurovision contest? Instead of studying grammar, how about studying that cutie next door? Spend your energy on things that will get you a more rewards for less effort, like eating toast smothered in Nutella. Just thinking of all these alternative ways to use your energy is making me tired. Nap time!
2) It takes a lot of time
Despite the numerous and dubious claims that you can learn a language in a short time, it actually requires a huge amount of time, your time, to obtain even a basic level of comprehension. To achieve the level of fluency you want will take months or even years, depending on how hard you work and how ambitious you are.
And when that time has passed, what have you got to show for it? Sure, you might be able to speak to someone from another country and culture in their language, but where is your name posted to show this? Why not play World of Warcraft, which will reward you with lots of points and imaginary powers and goodies after you’ve spent every waking (and some only semi-awake) moment playing it? Or why not watch the entire series of Game of Thrones, from the beginning, so you can learn every detail of a fictional land and its people? It takes less time and you still get to see other people, albeit fictional ones.
3) It changes your brain
This is often listed as a good reason to learn a new language, but is it really? Are you really becoming more enlightened or smarter, or are you just getting your brain rewired in new and crazy ways? While you are learning, your are jumping back and forth in your head, attempting to convince yourself that one pattern of sounds means the same as another pattern of sounds, when all of your life, you’ve known only the one. Cane can also mean dog? But cane is a stick, not an animal. Wait, you don’t pronounce it like that! What! This hurts! Stop!
And can you be sure your aren’t doing something that will change your personality entirely? Will you start craving bizarre foods or listening to strange music? Will you be able to remember your own language and culture? Will you forget what you even look like?
4) Two of everything
Once your brain is forever restructured, you now have to maintain two words or phrases for everything when once before, a single word was enough. Your pet is now both a cane and a dog. That stick is both a bastone and a cane. Your favourite food is both pizza and pizza. How do you keep track of all of it while staying sane? To quote Eddie Izzard: “Two languages in one head? No one can live at that speed!”
5) You will alienate your friends
You are studying another language, so you will need to find someone to speak with. While it is seen as a positive that you will be able to talk to those you couldn’t before, you will also be seeking those people out in your attempts to learn.
So what happens to your current friends and family, the ones that don’t speak this new language. Suddenly, you no longer have the time nor desire to be with them as you toss yourself in with another culture and people. Your old friends will begin to question what they did wrong to make you abandon them. Wasn’t their language and company good enough for you? Were they so boring that you are now seeking out others from another country?
6) You are exposed to other cultures
You haven’t just moved towards learning a language, you’ve also started to change your culture, which changes who you are.
Again, this is normally listed as a positive thing, but think about it. People around the world have all kinds of different rituals, eat various kinds of food, and have different value systems.
What if they expect you to start eating bugs, or kangaroos, or, worst of all, grits? Will you need to start burning incense or taking your shoes off at the front door or sit naked in hot rooms with other naked people before diving into freezing water? Will you be expected to watch sporting events involving men tossing trees or women sliding stones down trails of ice?
Do your really want to watch a game of Cricket?
These are just a few of the downsides of language study. Some of the others are too horrific to mention here, like being able to understand just how bad those Spanish soap operas are, or how creepy those Japanese animes with the gender changing pandas.
It’s probably best for everyone if you just stick to your own language. Especially if you took this article seriously.
For the humour impaired: this article is mocking those that will try to convince you that your love of languages is a bad thing. I am betting that most of you have heard at least one of these reasons given to you before, but in a very real and serious way. Screw ’em! Have fun!