Language learning: a great leveller

Learning a new language is one of those great activities that reduces the differences between people. It doesn’t matter what job you do, where you’re from or how much you earn; once you’re thrown together to grasp a new language, everyone’s in the same boat.

This occurred to me while reading one of a series of blog posts in The Guardian by writer Will Self. There’s something reassuring in reading about how a distinguished wordsmith experiences the same challenges in mastering another language (in his case, French) as everyone else.

I can definitely relate to this comment:

I’ve noticed how acutely geared to my general wellbeing my ability to speak French has become: on days when I’m rested and in good spirits, I feel like a saucy Maurice Chevalier in the making, but on down days I’m Antonin Artaud, brokenly raging in a straitjacket of received English locutions.

Some days, I feel as though I could talk forever and my Spanish friends seem to understand me. Other days, I can barely maintain a basic conversation, throwing whoever I’m talking to into a state of confusion.

And while some people swear to a glass (or two) of red wine to make them slip into a fluency they can only dream of normally, I’m pretty certain they’re only fooling themselves. Booze befuddles my brain, making it nearly impossible to string together a coherent Spanish sentence.

Maybe the key’s to get the person I’m talking to drunk, instead; I’ll still be able to hold a conversation and they simply won’t care…!

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