When we talk about a 'journey', we don't always mean travelling to different places. We can use the word 'journey' to talk about experiences in our personal development. When we start learning a language, we can say that we begin a 'language journey'. Read what some different people say about their language journeys.
At school I wasn't very good at English, and I wasn't particularly interested until I went on holiday to the UK and discovered British pop music. From then on, I learned a lot just by listening to my favourite bands and singers. As a student in Paris, I loved speaking to Americans, British people – anyone who I could chat to in English. Then, when I lived in London for a few years, my English really improved. Now I use English every day at work, and in my free time I read a lot online and listen to podcasts in English. And of course I still love the music!
When we were in our 20s, my partner and I decided to go travelling in Latin America. For me, there was no question – I had to learn Spanish before the trip! I was a complete beginner when I started taking evening classes, but a year later I had enough basic Spanish to make myself understood. On the trip I was able to communicate with people, even though I was a long way off being able to speak fluently. But at times I felt frustrated because I wished I could have more complex conversations – I just didn't have enough vocabulary and grammar to say what I wanted. Since then, I haven't had time to keep up my Spanish and unfortunately I can't speak nearly as well as I used to. Last year I started learning again, using an app, but I really need a conversation partner to be able to practise and improve. I'm hoping to go to classes again one day.
When I was 20, I went to live and study Tibetan in Nepal for a year. I took classes before going there, continued in Kathmandu and also lived with a family there for a couple of months. I found Tibetan difficult but fun. I didn't have that much trouble learning the script and spelling (which is complex), but I found it hard to understand what other people were saying. There were different accents, and then the grammar they used seemed different from the grammar I learned! I got to an intermediate level after ten months. Later on I studied literary Tibetan in graduate school for several years. It sometimes felt more like code breaking than language learning! I haven't used Tibetan much since then, but I like looking at it sometimes, and I still understand some. When I saw a film from Bhutan, I was pleased to understand some phrases. Bhutanese and Tibetan are different, but related.
I studied Portuguese and Spanish at university. After two years of learning Portuguese with a teacher from Lisbon, I went to Brazil to study for six months. For the first two or three days, I couldn't understand anything or anyone! The accent was really different, and I discovered that Brazilian Portuguese is quite different from the Portuguese I'd learned. After a few days, though, everything clicked into place and I began to understand. I love that feeling when you learn a new language – when suddenly you can understand and be understood. It's a real breakthrough that makes all the hard work worth it!
Tell us about you!
- How has your English journey been so far?
- Where and how did it start?
- What have the challenges been?
- What are your proudest achievements?
- Where do you want to go next?
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