5 Common Language Myths Debunked

Language learning myths are far too common and unfortunately often the cause of someone choosing not to go bilingual. Arguably language myths are at fault for the current deficit of multilinguals in countries like the U.K. and the U.S. because they lead many people to believe that there’s really no point in learning a new language. Have you fallen victim to the myth machine and think learning another language is a waste of time? Well, we’re here to change your mind by debunking these 5 common language myths!

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1. Everyone speaks English anyway

This is probably the number one myth that is stopping people from learning other languages and it’s an arrogant one at that. While it’s true that English is one of the most spoken languages in the world, roughly three-quarters of the people who inhabit this planet don’t speak it. Furthermore, a greater number of people around the world speak Chinese and Spanish and Hindi is a close fourth on the list when it comes to quantity of speakers. So next time you hear someone perpetuating the myth that language learning isn’t necessary because everyone speaks English anyway, gently remind them that more than half the world in fact doesn’t.

2. China speaks Chinese and India speaks Hindi

If you are of the view that Mandarin Chinese is spoken all over China and that you need only know Hindi if travelling to India, think again. Both China and India are home to a multitude of dialects and often it’s a matter of geography when it comes to knowing which one to speak. In some southern states in India, for example, Tamil would be more widely spoken than Hindi or English, and in China, while you might speak Mandarin in Beijing, in Shanghai you’ll have to know a dialect often referred to as Shanghainese, and in Hong Kong you’ll have a tough time if you don’t speak at least some Cantonese. Languages and cultures are far more complex than they might seem from the outside looking in, so be sure to do your research on what area of a country you’ll be visiting so that you get the language or dialect right!

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3. Some languages are spoken faster than others

When I had my first encounter with native French speakers, they spoke so quickly they left my head spinning. For a long time, I believed that learning French would be impossible since I would never be able to converse at the speed that French people do. You may think that some languages are spoken faster than others, but experts say there is no real difference between languages when it comes to speed. What you’re hearing when you struggle to understand Spanish but seem to grasp German a little more easily is the rhythmic difference. Languages like Spanish, French and Italian are syllable-timed languages so they sound faster while Arabic and Russian are stress-timed so it seems like they are being spoken at a more leisurely pace.

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4. Little spoken languages like Urdu are useless

When you approach language learning it can be tempting to just narrow in right away on one of the Big Three (English, Spanish or Chinese) because any other language will be pretty useless on a global scale. While learning these languages certainly has its benefits, picking up a less spoken tongue can also be very advantageous. These days, jobs are becoming more competitive and it’s harder and harder to set yourself apart from the pack.  What better way to grab a potential employer’s attention than being able to speak Vietnamese or Punjabi? Furthermore, a lot of countries like Indonesia, Bangladesh and Vietnam are rising in the world market and knowing the languages spoken there can put you ahead of the curve.

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5. Technology makes languages obsolete

There’s a lot of really cool translation technology available out there, and while they are making great strides in improving their usability, they’re definitely no replacement for good old fashioned language learning. A language app won’t be able to translate sarcasm or pick up on cultural nuances, only you can do that with the proper language know-how. So don’t throw in the towel just yet on learning Russian because the myth that you can rely solely on translation technology to get by isn’t at all true!

What are some language myths you’d like debunked? Share your questions with us and we’ll do our best to answer!