A few days ago, I made the decision to start studying not one, not two, but three languages – Russian, Chinese and Arabic. Now you may be wondering, what made me decide to start studying these three wildly different languages – so different from my own native tongue or any languages which I have ever studied? The answers are simple. I experience a chronic and striking wanderlust, and wish to see as many countries and cultures on this tiny and strange world as I can before my time is up. Not just the usual “Europe” or “America” or any common combination, but genuinely everywhere, or as close as I can feasibly get to that. Send me to Sudan any time you wish, deploy me to the Democratic Republic of the Congo on a whim, put me in Pyongyang. If anything, I am drawn more to the crazy and dangerous places, with a magnetic sense of suicidal adventure which pulls at me like a restless child.
It is not a path which is as likely to bring me fortune as if I went and studied in a STEM field or was happy with an office job, but will bring me experiences and stories by the thousand, which live far, far longer than any material wealth. I am more than happy to spend weeks living in the camp of some homicidal madman warlord covering a distant civil war than I would be working in an isolated, cold, dingy office. Fearing for my life is more enticing than fearing for my mortgage payments. What can be said against a life of rock and roll, hard drinking, drugs, insanity and danger? We’ll all be dust one day, while we’re whole we might as well make our lives whole too.
“People are people, regardless of skin. And people are people, regardless of creed.”
Besides this, learning languages is a beautiful experience. When you learn a language, if you stop for a moment and listen, you can practically hear the sound of humanity unlocking and the world opening. When you don’t learn languages, you confine yourself totally to those who are born into your own nation, or at the best, people who are born in your nation and a handful of others. If you only wish to live permanently inside your own linguistic bubble, then that’s fine, but if you ever want to truly experience humanity you need more languages. I recently watched a video of a pair of polyglots walking around a mall, speaking to a large group of people in their native languages and while one of these polyglots was a dorky and uninspiring individual, it was nevertheless impressive. We all possess the capability for this, whether you think it or not, you do. When you’re born, you don’t even speak one language, you learn by example, which is something anyone can do. Speaking to people from other parts of the world isn’t only interesting, it’s a beautiful and mind expanding experience. Imagine being able to do this with a big fraction of humanity, being able to hear their stories and be told of their experiences. Imagine the things you miss out on by speaking just the one language. This is why I am learning other languages – because I truly want to know people.So that is my message to you today – get out there, learn another language, and feel the world flow through your veins. In the words of a master of experience :
“Walk tall, kick ass, learn to speak Arabic, love music and never forget you come from a long line of truth seekers, lovers and warriors.” – Hunter S. Thompson
C’mon, be stuck in the middle with everyone.