Don’t follow your love in order to feel good. Follow it so someone else can feel good. Let your talent become a lesson for love. When you learn languages for others, you do what comes naturally to you and bring joy to others.
My wife is a great musician. She has traveled the world in choirs, both as a singer and as a piano accompanist. At her height she sang at Carnegie Hall.
She can play anything. She can accompany anyone. Not a day goes by when she doesn’t think about music.
Eventually, she became a mom—a great mom. Naturally, she taught our kids piano. She also taught private piano lessons at our house to over a dozen kids per week.
Music was not about personal joy to her, however. She played for those who needed more joy in their lives.
Every week, she took our kids and any other kids to a nursing home. Our kids would play whatever they were working on. My wife would play, too, and lead songs for the residents of the nursing home. They came so often that the kids began to develop special relationships with some of the individual residents.
Three times a year, my wife’s students would put on a recital. Each time, it took place in a retirement center. Granted, the center had a great room with a nice piano, but she would coordinate with the center to ensure that all residents were notified and invited to the recital. Kids would even wheel residents unable to walk to the recital.
Who can you bring joy to with your desire to learn languages?
You might want to learn languages to be a YouTube star, or travel to exotic places, or impress people. Or you might just love the process of learning languages and the feeling they give you in your brain. You have a passion for languages.
You might enjoy volunteering your time, assisting on projects that benefit others, or extending yourself to those in need. The feeling you get from helping others makes you feel great. You have a passion for helping others.
But do you have language love?
- If you have language passion, can you extend yourself to use this talent for the sake of others?
- If you have the passion to help, can you extend yourself to do the work it takes to learn languages?
- Are you lucky enough to have both? Can you combine them?
Just like those people in the nursing home, there are speakers of other languages who feel isolated and disconnected from others. Immigrants to a new city or new country who cannot express themselves fluently in the common language. They may be young or old, but the loneliness overwhelms them.
Others may actually feel comfortable in the common language. But hearing their mother-tongue makes them feel more themselves, more natural.
A few barely remember a language of their grandmother. A few words in that language makes them feel like their beloved grandmother is still with them, that the connection to the past still exists.
You can reach out to these people and help them. You don’t need to play Carnegie Hall to share the love of music; so you don’t need to express your language virtuosity to the world. Find someone, and love them with language.
Of course, it will take a sacrifice. Learning languages take tons of time and effort, sometimes with slow results. When you’ve learned something, you cannot build your ego on the millions of “Likes” or complements by your peers.
Most importantly, you wouldn’t get to pick the language; the ones around you would. You would have to set aside any accolades and learn a language no one cares about—except those on the margins, those who would love that connection.