Language Learning: One of the most rewarding (yet overlooked) pastimes of our nation

Learning a language unlocks many benefits and it has never been easier to do… Yet, most of us are monolingual, why?

Please know that this observation is not meant judgmentally. Talent is diverse and if you only speak one language it isn’t a crime. However, it is curious when we observe neighbouring nations. Last year, the language-learning platform Lingoda wrote that “around 62% of the UK population are monolingual.”

Meanwhile, reports indicate that Norwegians boast around 90% bilingual proficiency. So, why should we differ? It’s easy to point a finger at education, societal attitudes, or some other third thing. In my experience, however, it comes down to a choice; am I interested in this topic and willing to learn? Yes? Let’s do it!

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After working overseas, where most of my colleagues were bilingual, the question of my own lingual background frequently occurred and I felt remiss to not have much to say. As someone who only spoke English (and was encouraged to do so) his whole life, another language seemed more novel than necessary.

However, four years later from my time abroad and I have had a blast immersing myself into the lingual landscape both of Scotland and beyond. I started with Spanish as it seemed the most accessible and straightforward to learn. Now, I casually initiate conversations in the language and love connecting to Spanish-speaking communities worldwide.

On the side, I later began exploring the heritage languages of Scotland. Gaelic, in particular, is much more challenging but - and this is key - we’re allowed to enjoy things casually. Some take their language journey to the point of fluency and careers. If yours is merely absorbing some vocabulary and songs etc. then more power to you.

As I once spotted on a sign in Stornoway: “Is fheàrr Gàidhlig bhriste na Gàidhlig anns a’ chiste" (Better broken Gaelic than Gaelic in the coffin). Learning languages like English or Spanish is wonderful for connecting to a larger number of people.

Learning your area’s heritage languages, however, is special in a completely different way and often confers a deeper appreciation for your home which instils a sense of pride when you teach others about it.

Give it a go! What’s one hour less of social media per day? Reinvest it in a learning activity like languages and reap the rewards.



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