I am a firm believer that everyone should speak more than one language. I know that most of the world speaks English, and that English-speaking countries and people have an inherent advantage in that respect, but I still think it’s really important to learn another. A working knowledge of someone else’s language gives you an insight into their culture. You don’t have to be fluent, but understanding enough to have a conversation is vital to seeing other people as real human beings*. Someone’s English might be broken and halting, but they will sound like a poet in their native language. Or they’ll sound like an idiot in both, but if you don’t speak their mother tongue you’ll never know.
On the other hand there I know learning a language can be frustrating. I’ve learned a few, and there are always little things that make me want to bang my head on the desk, scream, or maybe set fire to a few dictionaries and/or the people who wrote them and listen to them scream instead**.
For example, in German, words have genders just like in Spanish, French, Catalan, Portuguese and Italian. In German, however, there doesn’t seem to be any freaking logic behind it, and in the words of my German-major friend****, “You kind of just have to memorize them.” What the crap is that? I’m used to memorizing exceptions to the rule, but this aspect of German seems to have no rules whatsoever.
I also have a beef with Portuguese. Specifically, the words for grandmother and grandfather. They’re allophones, which means they’re spelled the same but one of the phonemes (sounds) is slightly different. The words are literally ‘avó’ and ‘avô’ respectively, meaning they’re practically indistinguishable. My Portuguese instructor actually pronounced them, asked “You can hear the difference, right?” and no, we couldn’t hear the difference. Because they’re really stupidly similar.
But I can console myself with the knowledge that I grew up with English, which isn’t the hardest language to learn but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t have a bunch of weird crap thrown in.
*= Oooh, deep.
**= “Well that escalated quickly,” you*** say.
***= This might actually be you.
****= You know who you are.