Saturday, January 11, 2014

The language of the 21st century

It's everywhere. You see it on logos, on the names of restaurants. You hear it on the radio, you see is on TV. It's there on the side of the bus, and inside the bus talking on the phone. It's on one of the best books in the world. It's on social media. You can find it in normal conversations with your friends; it explains things you don't know how to express. It's on the side of your coffee mug. You can see it on almost every product in your nearby store. It speaks to you on an airplane. Sometimes it's in your thoughts. It's on the manual of your new camera. It's in my blog.

It truly is the language of the 21st century. You can't survive without it. 

How did English become so important? It's the dominating language of modern world today, with its 360 million native speakers. Mandarin is spoken by more than 900 million people, but you still don't see people studying it as much as English. There are so many things you couldn't do if you didn't know English. 

For starters, using internet would become more difficult, as many web pages have at least some English in them. It's something that you can't avoid running into. Also, getting a good job would be nearly impossible without any kind of knowledge of the English language. It's an important way for businesses to become international; most corporations want to become known everywhere. Chances of becoming the next big thing are not very good if you're just stuck in one country. Angry Birds, which was invented in Finland, would never have gotten so much praise if it hadn't conquered the market in other big countries such as the U.S.

Finnish kids start learning English in the third grade. I remember when I started studying it as my second language. We started with some really basic things; a dog, a cat, a house, an elephant. I couldn't understand a lot about this weird language as a nine-year-old grade school student. Little that I knew that ten years later I would be able to write complete sentences in this language, watch TV without subtitle and read books in their original language. I didn't do all the exercises we were supposed to do, and I didn't get very good grates in our word tests; I remember misspelling "cucumber" for years. It was that hard! Even later when I was about 13 years old, English felt hard and having a normal conversation was awkward to say the least. I didn't have the motivation I now have. 

It all changed on a 3 week language course in England four years ago. Literally, it all changed. When I arrived, my host mom was late picking me up and I was scared, thinking "what will I say when she comes"?. I thought that no words would come out of my mouth, or that I would be able to say "Hello" and that would be it. However, it all went fine. It was hard for the first week. I had to think carefully before saying anything, because I was scared to death that I might get something wrong and people would laugh at me. What a ridiculous way of thinking! We should have more courage to face our fear of speaking other languages, because it pays of in the end, it really does! Anyway, after a couple of weeks of staying in the host family, talking with my Swedish roommate and my host mother, I felt comfortable with the whole language. There was no barrier anymore.

I can recall the time when I went to a bus stop and started talking with a couple of Swedish guys. That's the first time I felt like I didn't need to think about every single word I said. That's when I realized I loved speaking another language, and I couldn't wait to study more. 

Then there was the year in the U.S, and then there is now. Me, wanting to share a future with this 21st century language. I don't know if it's my favorite language; there is always that special bond with your native language, in my case Finnish. I can't say which language I like the most, because it would be like comparing apple to an orange. Completely different words and expressions. Each language has pros and cons; in English I can express different feelings than in Finnish. In one way, I feel like you become a different person when you switch to a different language, because the language itself changes your personality. Don't the Eskimos have like ten different words for snow?  I think that English has lots of words for enthusiasm and strong feelings. In Finnish, I think we have lots of witty describing words, and words for confusion.

I love English, but sometimes it's nice to just focus on the language you've known your whole entire life. You never have to think, you just speak. It's something you can't easily change. 

I guess I'm just happy that a language like this has captivated the world, and me. After all, it would be really tricky if everyone had to learn Mandarin to be able to surf the net, find a job, read great literacy pieces, understand a manual or travel to New York.


1 comment:

  1. Hey beautiful! this is lovely! Amazing post!
    Best wishes for this 2014… keep up the amazing work on your blog!
    kisses from Miami,