Languages vs Other Stuff

What’s it better to learn: languages or other stuff?
Us language enthusiasts often talk about how good it is to learn languages, but what about learning other stuff?  How do they compare?

Here I list some of the benefits of both:

Languages.

  • Rich new experiences
  • An alternative view of reality
  • New friendships which are very different to your normal English language friendships.
  • The ability to connect with more people in more situations.
  • The opening of doors.
  • It’s just good being able to speak in different languages.

Other stuff:

History

  • Knowing where you came from.
  • Why things are how they are.

Politics.

  • Understanding how society works.
  • How laws get done.

Literature.

  • An alternative view of reality. (like in languages).
  • Other experiences
  • Other perspectives.

Poetry.

  • An alternative view of reality.
  • Other perspectives.

Science.

  • How things work.
  • Giving you a base to compare things to and relate things to.
  • Where and how stuff happened.

Psychology.

  • Why people act the way they do.

Musical instrument.

  • Fosters your self-expression and relieves stress.
  • Promotes happiness in your life and those around you.
  • Because being able to play music is just a really great thing.

Painting.

  • Being able to paint.
  • Self-expression.

Being able to make stuff.

  • It’s just useful and it’s interesting.

Being able to fix stuff.

  • Useful and interesting.

Business.

  • How to make money.

Combining learning a language with other stuff.

We can learn some of this other stuff, through another language.

When can you do this?
And what should you consider?

In my experience this has been the most relevant with Spanish.  It first started when I lived in Spain and I started to read Wikipedia articles in Spanish, I’d just read about whatever it was that I wanted to read about in Spanish.

I think that this works when you get into the zone of that language and you know it to at least a high intermediate level.  Also the more different the language is to those that you already know, then the harder this is.  So for example, this is far easier for me to do in Italian, knowing Spanish than it is in say German.

When I get interesting books in German, Dutch or Welsh, thinking that I’ll combine learning  what’s in them with learning the language, they usually get left to one side, as my progress in them would be too slow.  However with books in the Romance languages that I’ve studied, in general it’s a lot more probable that I’ll progress at least someway through.

There is a point that you get to in when learning a language when you can do this, you can learn other stuff through the language and it doesn’t slow you down that much.

So there’s a comparison of some of the positives of both, and of combining them, what do you think?

Word order and the words themselves

I was asked the following interesting question the other day, which I will try to answer here as I think that it will be of general interest.
“Have you had any other language experiments? Or is it just Spanish? If you had what was the difference?”
The first language that I’d say I really mastered was Spanish, but after this I caught the bug for learning languages and also having learnt one, this meant I then had an idea of how to go about learning other languages.  The next language I learnt was French, this was made easier because the word order is similar to Spanish, and also because I remembered some of the more basic words from school.
After that I moved back to England but near the Welsh border and started learning Welsh.  This is a completely different language to Spanish, French, or English, so in learning this I had to learn a very different way of thinking.  Also the vocabulary is very different so this meant I had to learn the new words in a different way, with Spanish there are many words that are similar to words in English, similarly with French but with the added benefit of words similar to Spanish words.
I’ve since experimented with various other languages all to various levels of knowledge or fluency, these include:
German, Dutch, Portuguese, Italian, Catalan and Japanese.
 
The differences in all these experiments are most apparent in two aspects (the word order and the words themselves) and how these two aspects relate to the language(s) that you already know.
For example, if you just know English and want to learn Spanish, then looking at these two aspects, word order and the words themselves, you’ll have the following things to consider:
1. Word order
Spanish has a different word order a lot of the time, this means that you’ll have to change the way your brain forms thoughts when speaking.
 
2. The words themselves
In Spanish there’s quite a large crossover of certain types of words, particularly with academic or literary vocabulary.  However a lot of the basic vocabulary is very different, this means that you’ll have to learn a lot of very different words at the very start, but then later on it will be easier to pick up more advanced words.
 
With each language you have to work out how to get progress in these two aspects.  
There are then additional aspects, for example particular grammar points (which I would group close to the word order), irregular pronunciation (for example with French), new alphabets (Arabic, Russian, etc) or other features.  However the two most important aspects are the two I’ve mentioned above.