Is learning a language useful?

Let’s talk about the practical use of language learning and how it relates to what we do here at OuiCommunicate.

Since I started this business in 2016, I was lucky to meet many learners from around the world. All wanted to learn French for some type of practical reason: either relocating to Europe, supplementing their high school resources, learning the language of their parents or settling into their new country or residence.

All these reasons are perfectly fine and none are “more valid” than the other. But although all stood on the same starting line, not all reached the same finishing line. As I shall explain.

Those who put in the work achieved their goals and came to speak French much better than when they stepped in. Those who didn’t, achieved much less and did not speak French any better. What’s the divider? That’s right: putting in the work.

In the sentence “Is learning a language useful?“, there are 2 ways to interpret the same. The first is to consider that the end result is useful. The second is to consider that the process is useful, as well as the end result. Can one be done without the other? No it can’t. Is one more useful than the other? Well, perhaps.

What does this mean exactly? Let’s rewind for a second: Student 1 strictly comes in to learn French (or ideally: to have learned French) and looks at the end result with a gleeful eye and hope in their heart. They picture themselves 6 months down the line comfortably chatting with a stranger at a Parisian table “living the life” with a little pitcher of iced water and a glass of Pernod… To them, French is indeed useful because they can now hang out in France and mix with the locals.

Student 2 comes in to learn French, realizes it will take focus and determination, gradually notices that their hard work is paying off, and enjoys the process as much as the language. This student walks away with a Life Lesson, self esteem, a method for learning, as well as with a new skill in the form of French.

(Only student 3 comes in only for the pleasure of the grit and the transferable skill. They don’t much care for French and just want to work hard because they know that steel forges steel.)

By the way, student 1 never did learn French. Sorry, that never happened.

And neither did Student 3. That was a joke, though it would be very interesting to meet such a person !

The student who doesn’t appreciate the process or embrace the work will simply not learn French. Or perhaps very badly. The saying “Nothing that was worth anything ever came easy” takes all its meaning here. Learning a language in a structure such as OuiCommunicate proposes simultaneously means committing to a work ethic and to a structure. It will seem unpleasant to those who generally do not enjoy efforts, but will already seem pleasantly familiar to those who do.

Whether you run regularly, look after your diet, go out of your way to maintain friendships, reflect on the education of your children, think about new business ideas, or engage in any type of discipline in your day-to-day life you will know that it is this same discipline that allows you to do these things. No one stays fit by accident. No one improves a business idea or a film script by accident. Is it hard? Yes it can be. Is it worth it? Certainly.

The beautiful thing about learning French is partially the language but certainly the Higher Lesson on how work creates results. At OuiCommuicate we don’t sell you a French that is made of red wine, French bread and meaningless folklore. We sell you a method that will enrich your life. Afterwards, you can use this same ethic and apply it to different aspects of your life.

Many of the values and ideas that we hold in our modern society seem to be back-to-front. We are told to want comfort, to stay away from conflict, to avoid difficulty… but what else builds character than this friction? I am by no means encouraging the type of senseless “toxic” hyper-machismo Rambo attitude and instead will draw upon the lessons of my grandmother who was a young adult during the time of the Second World War. Food rationing, fear, worry, uncertainty and many more were all part of her everyday life. Guess what? You just “got on with it” as they used to say. As much as she would gladly have avoided it, the experience gave her a sense of perspective for all that would follow. A measure of her own strength of character.

Is learning a language practically useful? Yes it can be. But only you can work out for yourself which immediate applications you can give to a new language in your set of skills.

My own German skills have never yet been directly turned into money. But the work I put in for 5 years at university to overcome this language does serve me in all that I do. I can measure myself with others and not feel intimidated. I can look at myself in the mirror when I feel down and tell myself “Look at you. You bloody well learned German!”.

I can teach myself to make this website you are using because I know that German was much harder. I can look at any new challenge with the assurance that I know German.

I have the discipline. I fought it through. I passed my exams. I overcame the possibility of failure. I stuck with it.

And I can even order a beer in German.

But that’s not the point.

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