Linguistic Awareness

If you’re looking to update your global awareness, then consider learning a new language.  Studies have shown that learning a new language can improve mental power and even offset deterioration of old age.  Also, learning a new language can open up your viewpoints to new things.

Different languages have different ways of expressing certain things.  This is called linguistic relativity, and can have a sometimes profound effect on the way we see the world around us.  For example, certain tribal languages do not have “relativistic” words for things such as behind, in front of, to the left, etc.  All of their location words are based on cardinal directions – and not just the directions relative to the person but relative to where the person is.  So no matter what way the person is facing, they will describe the location of objects as “to the northwest of your foot” or “to the south of the tree”.  The funny thing is, when recounting the same story but in a different place facing a different direction, the hand signals and directions change according to the direction that the person is sitting.

Other differences in languages are color, gender expression, and more.  Studies have shown that people who speak a gendered language often view inanimate objects as having either more feminine or masculine characteristics (based on whatever gender the object is assigned in their native language).


So if you’re looking to learn a new language, get ready to embrace these unusual and fun differences.  Spanish is a great language for English speakers to start out with thanks to the proliferation of Spanish in the USA as well as the similarities between the two languages.  There are a few great language learning programs out there, including the Rocket Languages series (check out a good Rocket Spanish review here).

However, the best way to learn a new language properly (and get the culture with it) is to actually go to where the language is spoken natively and immerse yourself.  If you can’t make that happen (and honestly, who can make that happen anyway?) then a classroom setting is best.  If you happen to still be in college, get involved in a language club.  There are so many opportunities to speak with native speakers while you’re in college.

Lastly, an audio program like the one mentioned above is a great tool in the interim, or if you’re just looking for a quick and dirty way to learn some vocabulary and phrases for a vacation.