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Why Do We Learn Languages?

Why do We Learn Languages has been transcribed from Steve’s YouTube channel. You can download the audio and study the transcript as a lesson at LingQ.

Hi there, Steve Kaufmann here. Today, I want to talk about and I want to hear from you about why you study languages and I’m going to tell you why I study languages. Before I get into that, I want to ask a question. What is the preferred frequency for these videos, once a month, once a week, once every two weeks, twice a week? I would be interested in hearing from you because that will help me make up my mind as to how frequently I should be doing them.


I’m falling a bit behind here. I was doing videos in different languages, I’ve been busy. I will get to an Italian one either this weekend or early next week. Tomorrow, I have to drive to Whistler, which is about an hour and 15 minutes from where I live. There is a three-day lumber conference. Lumber buyers are coming from all over the world, so I’m going to be going up there to meet people, customers and, hopefully, new customers.


So I was just thinking to myself, I’ll be driving up there and it’s a spectacular drive surrounded by snowcapped mountains here in August-September, it’s beautiful, but the whole way up I will be listening to probably this — I Promessi Sposi. This audio, by the way, is by il Narratore, who is a tremendous audio narrator for Italian. You can look him up on the Internet


Perhaps the outstanding audio book that he’s done that I have enjoyed is Pinocchio, where he does the different characters in Pinocchio. It’s spectacular. By the way, both I Promessi Sposi and Pinocchio, the texts are available on LingQ with LibriVox audio, but the audio done by il Narratore is well worth paying more for to listen to. It’s spectacular. So I’m already looking forward to driving up to Whistler listening to I Promessi Sposi, which I listened to seven or eight years ago at a previous sort of period of concentration on Italian.


Also, while driving around in Vancouver, because one way or another I’m in the car an hour a day, I went to find podcasts in Italian. _____, the national radio broadcasting network in Italy, they have a chain number, too, which puts out podcasts, fantastic podcasts which I have now subscribed to through iTunes. I’ve been listening to podcasts about Frederick the Great of Prussia. There’s one on the history of La Cucina on cooking. There’s one on Roman emperors. There’s one on Charlemagne. What’s interesting in all of this is you’re listening to the language you’re learning and you’re learning so much about different things in history, but from a different perspective. The _____ had a series on China, as well.


Of course, that’s been my experience with all these languages, with the Russian, with the Czech, with the Romanian. Why do learn these languages? Because it’s so much fun to enter this different world. I’m following the Moscow election in Russia in Russian. I’m getting their perspective on the Syrian crisis. You know, watch movies, read books. I should, too, that I’m also reading. When I go to bed I like to read, so I’m reading Umberto Eco’s Il nome della rosa in Italian. So I’ve got a lot of Italian stuff going. It’s fun. It’s so much fun.


Why  I learn languages


So, for me, I must admit I am more motivated, initially, by being able to access the language. If I think about the amount of time that I have to enjoy the language here in Vancouver, I can go to an Italian restaurant and I can chat up the waiter, maybe, in Italian. That’s very brief. However, if I’m in my car for an hour going to Whistler and it’ll be another hour coming back and I’ll be listening to this novel, that’s a lot of enjoyment. That’s a lot of enjoyment. Some people would perhaps be more interested in what kind of car they’re driving to go up to Whistler, I have my seven-year-old Saab and it does me just fine. In fact, it’s easier almost to control the CDs in that car than in a more sophisticated car with modern CD players and stuff like that.


The amount of time that I enjoy, basically, listening and reading far exceeds the amount of time that I am able to spend speaking the language and I think that’s not unusual. I could be wrong, but people who learn the language in order to say a few things because they maybe have an opportunity to use it a few times and then they’re disappointed that they didn’t do so well… I’m not saying that that’s not a legitimate reason to learn a language, but if you think of the time of enjoyment that you’re going to have.


It seems to me that the amount of enjoyment that we can have listening to podcasts or watching movies or reading books and gaining that different perspective on cultures or even on world events or on history and cooking and so forth, that length of time is greater than the amount of time you would have actually engaging someone in a conversation. Plus, if I invest all of that time in these kinds of activities, then when I go to speak I have a much better background from which to improve my speaking. Eventually, my speaking will come along.


So it’s not that I’m not interested in speaking, but in my own case, my motivation in learning Russian and learning Czech and learning Italian and brushing up my German is all about this access that I get to their world. But I do get the benefit that when I go to Prague, as I did, or go to Berlin, as I did fairly recently, or when I was with my wife in Italy two years ago, then, of course, I can speak.

Here you can read about: The best way to learn a language


Anyway, I just wanted to point out that I am tremendously motivated and I get great enjoyment. I don’t know how many books I have in Italian that I haven’t yet read. I was counting my audio CDs up there in different languages, Russian, Czech, German, Swedish. I mean I’ve got to have, I don’t know, 500 CDs, some of which are mp3 CDs, some of which I’ve listened to. I am never bored. After I finish my Italian period, then I’m going to do some Swedish. I don’t want to just jump in and do a video. I want to kind of enjoy experiencing that Swedish thing. I’ve got a lot of Swedish historical audio books that I’ve bought and books. So that’s my enjoyment.


Now, I might be a bit unusual in that regard. Other people maybe like chatting on the Internet, finding language partners on the Internet, reading different language blogs, which I also do, by the way. There are many different reasons why people languages, some people need it for their job or they move to a different country. There could be many, many reasons why people learn languages. I just want to share with you my reason for learning languages. I look forward to hearing from you about why you learn languages and, also, any comments as to what your preferred frequency is for these videos.

Here you can read: Learning Multiple Languages at Once


Thank you for listening, bye for now.


Listen and read through the transcript on LingQ. LingQ has 1000s of hours of great content in multiple languages to help you improve your language studies. Good luck.


Why do we learn languages transcript

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8 comments on “Why Do We Learn Languages?

Name *Michael

I share your enthusiasm for appreciating what each culture has to contribute (and that is found in its language). It is also rewarding to find an expression of that appreciation in conversing in a language which is part of another person.

How often to hear from you? Quarterly.

Name *Victoria

I need your videos each day. In my opinion, there are always so interested that always you help me to improve. Thank you for your effort.
I am from Madrid, but I am living in UK right now due to a family project and I need to be fluent asap.


Name * Debbi

Hi Steve. I like receiving your videos once a week. They are always interesting and they also keep me motivated.

And, I am learning Italian for two reasons – I have Italian roots and want to be able to read and listen to the types of interesting materials you mention and like, but I am most motivated to learn because I live in Italy part of each year. I think I am progressing OK with reading and listening but really struggle with speaking. Not only am I shy about doing it but often, when I do try to practice speaking with natives, many switch to English immediately upon hearing my accent or say they cannot understand me – not motivating at all!

Name *Joseph

For myself, I would say: As often as you feel like doing it. I do not attempt to keep current. I just go online occasionally and look to see if there is anything that catches my eye. I do not spend so much time with learning languages videos as with something I might be interested in listening to which would of necessity improve my listening.
More usually, I look for things that are interesting to read for whatever reason. Sometimes biographies, sometimes history, etc.


Hi Steve, I’m learning languages because it’s fun and I think it’ll be amazing to be able to understand and speak in another language. And about the frequency, I don’t know maybe one or two per week or how much you feel comfortable to do so. Thanks!

Christine Percival

Dear Steve, I thoroughly enjoy your podcasts and listen to them regularly. I have to say something here – I have been a student of Italian now 2+ years—at an intermediate level and when I listen to you state that you have learned/speak multiple languages, It is a little discouraging from my perspective. While I struggle with just one language, it begs the question whether I will become fluent and maybe language learning is just not my gift. Yes, I hear that you spend an enormous amount of time learning a language, as do I, but you seem to navigate through languages at a much more rapid pace than I do and it is perplexing.
I have taken formal classes, I read, speak, and study grammar. I am engage with other language speakers. I listen to podcasts, and when I go to Italy I use it every chance I get. Where have I gone wrong?

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