I was debating whether to stick this in a blog post or not since I’m writing an ebook regarding languages (I’m not giving anything away yet), and I was going to cover this early on in the book. Regardless, I’m tired of hearing academics, fellow language enthusiasts, and pseudo intellectuals going on and on about how you have to have a “good” reason to learn a language or fail. They go on and on about their superior motivations ranging from “I’m learning X language because of my heritage!” or “I’m moving to X country and need to speak the language.” They’ll usually carry attitudes of, “You can’t learn X language because of music, movies, TV, or books! That’s not a good reason!” “Bullcrap!” is how I respond to that. You just need a reason to keep you learning, whatever that reason is.
Sure, a lot of people who are learning Japanese because of anime tend to not do so good in class. In psychology it was emphasized that correlation does not equal causation. Perhaps they just aren’t suited to academicizing languages. At any rate, I’ve also known people who took up learning a language for heritage reasons, or to connect with relatives who may still live in the “old country” only to find that they, too, lost the motivation to continue.
The biggest reason people fail is not because of the reason they have for learning a language, but because they haven’t yet found the way that they learn the very best. If you have a “shallow” reason for learning a language, I encourage you to learn. If you have a “deep” and “profound” reason, then I also encourage you! Just learn. That’s all there is to it.
Let me share with you some of my reasons for learning languages, just to give those with their noses stuck in the direction of the sky something to think about.
Italian = This was my first real language undertaking. The reason? I could tell you that I started Italian because my mother’s side of the family has a rich background in Italy, but that would be a lie. The actual reason was because I enjoy listening to Andrea Bocelli and wanted to understand the language.
Japanese = Anime… Yeah, I did eventually come to appreciate Japan for all that it is – good, bad, and ugly – but I initially was just another anime enthusiast.
Finnish = Because a certain author was strongly influenced by said language when creating a certain Elvish language. Another I could easily attribute to heritage reasons, but that really had little bearing on my desire to learn this language.
Old Norse and Norwegian = These are the only languages I’m learning for heritage reasons and an initial and deep fascination with the history of this country, and it isn’t quite as fun, let me be the first to say.
So there. No wrong reason to learn a language, just as there’s no wrong way to eat a certain candy. The whole idea is to learn your target language, not get into elitist debates about whose desire is more genuine. So please, stop the nonsense.
By the way, I revised my LingQ review. Please check it out if you haven’t done so.