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A beautiful perk to living in or visiting a metropolis is a euphony of various languages, a din of voices uttering gorgeous vowels or harsh consanents, but nonetheless transmitting the most precious of all human inventions–culture.  But why learn these conduits of varying societies?

Pickthebrain.com articles “5 Great Reasons to Learn a Foreign Language”, and starts with the idea that it will improve your English…or whatever language is most familiar. Granted, not all ideas are parallel between societies, but to understand the uniqueness of a language and its reflection of culture ultimately makes one a more authentic and careful speaker. This continues the idea that knowing a language deepens cultural learning, teaching more than just vocal sounds, but instead a very human experience.

But strengthening one’s familiar language is only the beginning. Any avid traveler will note that knowing the local lingo can not only enhance the experience, but keeps a traveler safe as well.  Without knowing the behind-the-counter conversations, one can feel excluded from the local culture, relegated instead to buying over-price cheaply-made souveniers and eating at the local McDonald’s. Opening with at least an attempted language exchange increases the chances of a receptive and positive interaction, thus increasing the memories and deepening the experiences. When last I visited Paris, I attempted my worst pronunciation of French. Though I was ribbed for my terrible French, the Parisians were still quite happy to help me with whatever I needed. And possibly flirted with me a little bit, too.

Actually learning the language, though, can be the challenge. Two of the most used on-line language courses are livemocha and Rosetta Stone. However, which one to use is an even more of a challenge. LiveMocha allows learners to interact with fluent speakers and other learners. This community makes learning not feel so isolating, and gives almost immediate feedback as to the quality of responses. LiveMocha also has many free courses, though the most common languages (like German and Spanish) do cost. The downside is that LiveMocha has many translation errors, and behaves more as a review of a language than an initial learning tool. Rosetta Stone, however, has proven strategies that work, though at a high financial price at roughly $300.

Whatever language learning software you choose, just experiencing a new culture enhances the human experience. Challenging yourself, stepping out from your comfort zone, makes life more meaningful. Larga vida y prosperidad!

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