Saturday, October 24, 2009

Becoming a more global player 9

For those with the right opportunity, learning to speak another language well can be a great way to get a more global view of the world and of your own culture. I just ran across Benny Lewis' blog today, and it gives away the secret I stumbled onto years ago: don't speak your native language!

For a significant period, I lived and worked in a small town where not even the second language was English. One might argue the first language was Alemannisch, the second German, and the third French. I was stubborn, and I forced myself to speak the local language. I seem to recall almost six months of headaches and tiredness in the evenings after struggling to be productive in a different language. Then one morning I woke up realizing I had just dreamed my first dream in German. From then on, I thought in German. What I learned from then on, I learned in German, and I eventually had to translate some of those concepts to English. I still think in German from time to time. Benny Lewis' experience mirrors mine precisely, except that I think I took a bit longer. As a practicing engineer at the time, a significant part of my day was spent in design and calculation, so I may not have had as much opportunity to converse as he.

So, if you get a chance to live in a different country, I strongly encourage you to try this approach. It will be hard—very hard—at first, but the payoff is great.

You might also like his How to speak a language pretty well, starting from scratch, in just two months. You might also be interested in the previous posts in my series.

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