Choosing a language

I have often been asked how I choose the languages I want to study. Basically, I think any language is worth being studied because it enables you to communicate with another human being.
Of course, I have certain preferences based on how I perceive the sounds of a language, personal relationships (family members, friends etc.), geographical aspects (going to Italy, France, Croatia etc. is a lot easier for me than going to some far away place) and so on.

Mostly, however, it is the people I fall “in love with”. When I go abroad to practice one of my languages, I often just sit in a street café and listen to the locals talking. I also very much enjoy train rides because they offer many opportunities to get into contact with people.

Work-related aspects have hardly ever played a role. I did try, however, to make sure that I study at least one language that could help me “survive” as a translator and interpreter, but most of the languages I have studied are really dear to me. I know that sounds kind of weird, but I cherish the opportunities these languages offer me on a personal level.

Sometimes I find myself in a position where people try to convince me to “drop” a language or not even start studying it. Right now, I’m trying to study some Hebrew and Arabic. There are people who seem to consider this to be a weird choice. I had one guy tell me that I’d better never tell an Israeli that I want to study Arabic and an Arab that I am about to study Hebrew.

While I actually have had one potential language partner who said that he doesn’t want to talk to a “supporter of the Zionist movement” (he based that assumption on the mere fact that I’m interested in the Hebrew language), I must say that all the others I have gotten into contact with have turned out to be very supportive irrespective of their nationality, mother tongue and/or religion.

In Austria we currently have a heated debate about whether Turkish should be offered at schools as an optional language to choose for our “Matura” (“Abitur” in Germany; some sort of high-school leaving certificate that allows you to go to university). You would not believe the crazy arguments our right-wing parties come up with to torpedo this project.
Unfortunately, there is still widespread prejudice with regard to the Turkish language and culture in many European countries. On the positive side there are more and more people consciously trying to swim against the current. One of my best friends who is the head of the language department in a major bookstore told me that since the latest diplomatic fallout between the Turkish and Austrian government (over a ridiculous matter) the number of people buying Turkish language books has increased.

Personally, I think Turkish is a beautiful and intriguing language. Just like with so many other things in life, it has been stigmatized because of political and/or historical reasons. I bought a Turkish course myself some time ago but have not yet had time to actually get started with it. But Turkish is one of the languages I really want to learn and I have to admit that the fact that our right-wing parties are going literally mad over the idea that Austrians might actually learn Turkish at school makes me want to learn that language even more :wink: