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Creative Multilingualism

Katrin Kohl
Rajinder Dudrah
Andrew Gosler
et al.

Why Learn a Language?

Texte intégral

1Languages are fundamental to our lives, and they’re all valuable — in different ways, different places, with different people, for different purposes. You may already know a little or quite a lot of a language other than your own — it will always be worth exploring it further. And whether or not you have ever learned a language, it will certainly be rewarding to start one from scratch.

2The Creative Multilingualism team has come up with the following reasons for language learning, building on the ten Manifesto Statements we presented at the beginning of the book and explored in its ten chapters. Here, we offer some concrete suggestions why it’s worth embarking — or continuing — on your own personal language learning journey.

1. Language diversity nurtures diversity of identity, thought and expression

3Learning a language…

  • … makes you more sensitive to cultural difference.

  • … can enable a foreign culture to touch you and move you in new ways.

  • … helps you to appreciate what is special about your own culture.

  • … allows you to empathize with what it must feel like to be a dog listening to humans talking.

2. Language diversity protects biodiversity

4Learning a language…

  • … gives you an understanding of humanity’s multilingualism as part of the diversity of life.

  • … allows you to explore a new natural environment through indigenous names for plants and animals, created by the people who understand their beauty, complexity and value.

  • … reveals that even scientific facts look different if you approach them through another language and its scientific tradition.

  • … enables you to appreciate birdsong and animal communication in a new way.

3. We’re more multilingual than we think

5Learning a language…

  • … makes you notice another language in your own, such as Arabic (magazine), Chinese (tea), French (cabbage), German (zeitgeist), Greek (music), Hindi (thug), Indonesian (gong), Italian (umbrella), Japanese (tycoon), Latin (corona virus), Nahuatl (tomato), Portuguese (marmalade), Russian (disinformation), Spanish (cafeteria), Swahili (safari), Turkish (yogurt), Urdu (cushy).

  • … allows you to identify lots of words in the other language that you already know or can work out because they have the same origin or are borrowed from English, for example in French (weekend, parking, brainstorming, interview), German (Computer, Job, Meeting, trainieren) or Spanish (hobby, running, feedback, email) (though beware of ‘false friends’…).

  • … encourages you to ‘read’ body language and discover the world of sign languages.

  • … gives you lots of Eureka moments as bits of the language puzzle fit together.

4. Language diversity inspires creativity in performance

6Learning a language…

  • … encourages you to try out a different voice and self-projection.

  • … enables you to imagine yourself in a different culture.

  • … transforms your experience of quotidian interactions — if you visit a country where the language is spoken, even buying a loaf of bread can feel like a theatrical scenario.

  • … allows you to immerse yourself in a whole new world through the performative arts, films and other media, and appreciate how much the original language contributes to the experience.

5. Languages travel and migrate

7Learning a language…

  • … allows you to follow the journeys another language has taken with its people — in battles won and lost, scientific discoveries, art, music, literature.

  • … encourages you to visit countries where the language is at home.

  • … makes life in a global society easier and more enriching.

  • … could give your life a whole new trajectory.

6. Translation is inherently creative

8Learning a language…

  • … allows you to explore language difference through the art of translation.

  • … helps you to mediate between your own culture and the culture in which the language is spoken.

  • … gives you the opportunity to find out how your hobby translates into another culture — cookery, martial arts, gardening, dance, archaeology, castles, diving, bird-watching.

  • … enables you to use translation and interpreting apps more intelligently and effectively.

7. Language learning opens your mind

9Learning a language…

  • … is an adventure in mental travel.

  • … enables you to watch the news from the point of view of another part of the world.

  • … could allow you to enter a part of your heritage that was previously a closed door.

  • … makes you more confident about learning further languages.

8. Languages hold infinite potential for creativity

10Learning a language…

  • … allows you to discover the creative richness of your own language as well as the one you’re learning (a single word can inspire a poem!).

  • … provides opportunities for discovering lots of new word play.

  • … enables you to understand poetry, song, musicals, opera in the medium where the language truly harmonises with the sound and rhythm.

  • … gives you access to a new imaginative world of myths and stories in the language in which they were created and transmitted.

9. Languages create connections with people

11Learning a language…

  • … gets you thinking about how language works, and how vital it is for our social lives.

  • … enables you to empathize with people from another country for whom your language is foreign, and show respect for people whose language you are learning.

  • … allows you to feel you belong in a culture that started off feeling foreign.

  • … permits you to help people — in the street, in a hospital, in your school, in your workplace.

10. We create language every day

12Learning a language…

  • … gives you a new toolkit for creative thinking.

  • … opens up more ways to be linguistically creative.

  • … encourages you to explore the differences between your own language and the one you’re learning — and makes you aware of how much human creativity has gone into developing such different ways of saying (almost) the same thing.

  • … keeps your brain so active that it could help stave off dementia for four to five years.

Not enough?
Then have a look at this study — it gives over 700 reasons grouped in 70 key areas in which languages make a difference:​700reasons.html
The study provides links to relevant research and reaches the following conclusion (​textos/​700_reasons.pdf, p. 2):
The strongest of these reasons are the personal benefits and enjoyment people gain from learning a language.

Fig. 1 Communication network.

Image by Gordon Johnson, from Pixabay, https://

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 1 Communication network.
Crédits Image by Gordon Johnson, from Pixabay,
Fichier image/jpeg, 40k


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