Season 3

Languages (S03E23)

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This episode’s vocabulary

  • Practicality (adj.) — quality of being suitable for a particular occasion or use.
  • Passably (adv.) — in a way that is satisfactory but not excellent.
  • White whale (idiom) — something you obsess over to the point that it nearly or completely destroys you.
  • To integrate (verb) — to combine two or more things in order to become more effective.
  • To take an interest in (phrase) — to be or become concerned with, curious about, or interested in someone or something.
  • Lexically (adv.) — of or relating to the words or vocabulary of a language, especially as distinguished from its grammatical and syntactical aspects
  • Chunk (noun) — a part of something, especially a large part.
  • Engaging (adj.) — tending to draw favorable attention or interest.
  • Turn out (phrasal verb)  prove to be the case.
  • Micro skills (noun) — specific competencies for communicating effectively with others.

We have also added these words to a “Quizlet” set for you to study and revise in your free time:


Questions and Answers

Maria: Rory, do you like learning languages?

Rory: I think I like the idea of learning a language more than the practicalities of it. It’s fun to learn some isolated phrases to get by, but it’s actually quite a difficult thing to do — to learn a language, and it takes up a lot of time. So it’s sort of like 50/50 when I think about it.

Maria: What languages do you speak?

Rory: Well, I speak English fluently, obviously, cause I’m a native speaker (😎), but I also speak Russian…passably. And I can speak a little bit of Swedish and high school French from, like, back in the day.

Maria: How good is your Russian?

Rory: Probably pre-intermediate for vocabulary and elementary for grammar. I hate grammar.

Maria: Are you learning any foreign languages now?

Rory: Well, I’m still learning Russian, although the grammar is kind of like my “white whale” at this point. I don’t think there’s any way that I’m gonna get any better at it. Well, I keep trying, though 🥴

Maria: I believe in you. You can do it. Come on, man up. Is it important to learn a foreign language?

Rory: I suppose it depends on why you’re learning it. There are different kinds of motivations to learn. There’s, like, integrative motivation where you learn to integrate into a community or there’s instrumental motivation where you learn for a specific purpose. So if you’ve got either of these two kinds of motivations, then, yes, it’s very important to learn. But if you’re doing it just to look cool, then I don’t think it’s so important… You should maybe work on your character more.

Maria: How did you learn the languages that you speak?

Rory: Well, learning English, I suppose…I just grew up being surrounded by the language. So that
was a pretty passive process on my part until I got older and I started taking an interest in it. And then when it comes to languages like Swedish and Russian, I learned it lexically. I learned things like phrases and chunks of useful vocabulary, that really helped me out.

Maria: Why do people learn more than one language?

Rory: I think the main reasons are employment and immigration. Some people do learn languages just out of interest, but I think the first two I mentioned are the biggest reasons why people do it. And of course, if you want to work abroad or if you want to live in a different country, then obviously it’s important to learn the language that people speak there.

Maria: Do you think that all children should learn foreign languages at school?

Rory: They should at least try. Although, their school teachers should also try a lot harder to make classes more engaging. I think we had the grammar translation approach at high school, which is the most boring thing in the universe, if you’ve ever done it. So yeah, they they should at least try… As long as the schools are trying. And if it turns out to be their thing, then great! It can open up a lot of opportunities. But I suppose one could argue — so can a lot of the things you learn in high school... So if you’re not so good at learning languages, then I wouldn’t worry. You could be good at other things.

Maria: Do you think it’s difficult to learn a language?

Rory: Oh, yeah. Like, you’ve got all the vocabulary and the different grammar structures to learn. And then on top of that, there’s all of the skills and the micro skills. So it’s really difficult, but I think it’s worthwhile ultimately.

Maria: Will you learn all the languages in the future?

Rory: Probably studying and practicing two languages is enough. So like Russian and English for me, I don’t think I’ll learn any other languages. My cousin wants me to try and learn Gaelic, which is one of the native languages in Scotland. But I think it’s too difficult at this point… and I have other things to do with my life. Maybe computing languages, but I don’t think that’s quite the same thing.


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