Contrary to many students’ expectations, the people who are most likely to end up being popular are those who take the study of languages seriously. There exists an idea in England that studying languages is pointless. Everybody speaks English anyway, right? Well, it is true that 1.35 billion people do know the language… but that means 6.45 billion people don’t! In other words, if English is your only language, you are preventing yourself from being able to make friends with over 80% of the global population. Tuttavia, se si ha la fortuna di essere bilingue, è più facile fare amicizia! Semplicemente, chi sa parlare un’altra lingua ha la possibilità di incontrare più persone con cui chiacchierare.
Well, it is true that 1.35 billion people do know the language… but that means 6.45 billion people don’t!
When I set out for my year abroad to Italy back in 2020, I left England with a large suitcase and the desire to speak as much Italian as possible. In fact, I didn’t really want to speak any English when I was there. Arriving in Italy with the ability to speak to anybody I met meant that I was able to make friends far easier than if I had rocked up with the assumption that everybody there would speak my language. Nessuno vuole passare del tempo con qualcuno che è così arrogante da credere che tutti debbano parlare inglese. In fact, as it happens, a lot of the friends I made only knew a handful of English phrases. My language skills were what allowed them to get to know me; had I been monolingual, we simply would not have been able to establish a friendship. Chi vorrebbe invitare ad una festa qualcuno che non è in grado di sostenere una conversazione? Se si vuole trascorrere un buon anno all'estero, è necessario avere degli amici; per questo è importante parlare la lingua di coloro che ci circondano.
Speaking multiple languages does not only make you more popular with those whose language you have taken the time to learn. To master any language, it is necessary to engage with its culture. By doing so, you are inadvertently making yourself more open-minded and interesting. The likelihood is that learning a language will mean you have more to talk about and, as such, you will probably be able to engage in conversation with a wider array of people. Let’s take learning Italian as an example. Per capire veramente la lingua italiana, bisogna che si studi la storia del Paese. Si può imparare qualcosa sull'arte, sulla musica, sulla gastronomia o anche sull'industria automobilistica! If you learn even just a few of these things, you are making yourself a more approachable individual. Le persone vogliono socializzare con coloro con cui potrebbero andare d'accordo.
To master any language, it is necessary to engage with its culture. By doing so, you are inadvertently making yourself more open-minded and interesting.
In my experience, the process of having to put yourself out there when trying to learn a language is also a great way of improving your people skills. To really get good at a language, you have to practise it with those who speak it. As I have already mentioned, the act of conversing with somebody else increases your chances of making more friends. Tuttavia, praticare le proprie abilità linguistiche con qualcun altro è utile non solo per questo motivo, ma anche perché ci costringe ad avere interazioni che potrebbero sembrare difficili. Insomma, bisogna essere disposti a commettere errori e non ci si può prendere troppo sul serio. This is an attractive characteristic to possess!
Finally, learning another language is meant to be a fun activity. There are so many self-proclaimed language nerds out there. If nothing else, joining the language-learning community allows you to get to know so many like-minded individuals! About The Author: Tom is an Olea Ambassador (Team 1.0, March - Sept 2023) and a postgraduate student of MSt in Modern Languages (Italian) at the University of Oxford. He also holds a 1st Class (Hons) BA in Modern Languages and Cultures (Italian & French) from Durham University.