By Mari Polyglot
Chances are you haven’t realized yet how close language learning and creativity lie. Maybe the first thing that pops in your mind is what your crafty friend Laura does while sending letters to her pen pals; but creativity is not exclusive to glitter addicts and artists.
What is creativity? Let’s see what different languages think about it.
According to the Oxford dictionary, creativity is “The use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness.” But for the RAE (Royal Spanish Academy – Real Academia Española) it is simply “the faculty of creating” and “the capability of creating”. And according to Dutch dictionaries, it is “the talent to create new things and/or to be creative”. What I want you to take from this is that even though we use different words to describe something we still get to the same point: the art of making something new.
We can all agree that creativity is the art of creation. The way we create new ideas and projects is by thinking outside the box. Getting new perspectives on things, situations and relationships is what makes us leave our comfort zones and create.
Going back to the definitions before, we can see how languages open up new ways of getting a new point of view. So, even though creativity translates directly to the spanish word creatividad, each language has a way to define it.
This phenomenon translates to many aspects of language learning. In English and Spanish we would say seventy-five and eighty-two while in Dutch and German the counting will be five and seventy , and two and eighty… And then there’s the French who will say sixty-fifteen and forty-twenty-two respectively.
Just with counting, we can see how many different ways there are to express the same concept. Learning multiple languages thus leads us to think differently and foster more open-minded ideas.
These perspective shifts are not only from a linguistic point of view. If we go deeper into other cultures, we gain many other abilities. Not only do we develop empathy towards others, love for the unknown and a big heart, but we start to be creative by mixing traditions, ways of cooking, social environments and opening up our lives to opportunities that are no longer confined to the limits of our own culture.
“Not only do we develop empathy towards others, love for the unknown and a big heart, but we start to be creative by mixing traditions, ways of cooking, social environments and opening up our lives to opportunities that are no longer confined to the limits of our own culture.”
Experiencing linguistic and cultural immersions help us think creatively and become more prone to finding creative solutions to any situation.
Language learning for creative people
Now we know that languages affect our creativity in a positive way. What about the other way around? How can creativity help our learning? This one is very simple and even though you can still bring your crafty side to this, it is mostly related to the way we study.
You guys are geniuses, I’ve seen it. You come up with new ways to memorize, to take notes, to learn better almost everyday! That is creativity, finding different ways to do something so it gives you a new benefit. I love seeing all of the challenges you come up with and how supportive you all are of each other’s ideas.
PS: I am not even mentioning Conlangs because that’s a whole other topic, but think about how creative and interesting are languages that come from someone’s imagination entirely. I am fascinated by the amazing linguists that are behind these powerful new languages and have created communities around them.
Creativity and self study
Like most of you, I learn languages from home using all kind of apps, books, websites and videos. The reasons why I learn from home and not in a classroom environment are first, because I can do it in my pajamas and second because I can adapt it to my needs and move as fast or as slowly as I want. Than means that even though I have teachers, tutors and friends that correct me as I learn, I am pretty much my own teacher. I have to come up with new activities, a lesson plan and a sort of balanced learning process. Of course, I don’t do it exactly as a teacher; actually, I do it without even realizing it.
Because I know that my best way of learning is by doing fun stuff, I need to come up with innovative ideas that will keep me interested and engaged during my language learning process. So my creativity comes in handy! I paint fun scenarios and then write a story behind them, I share my progress on social media to feel some sort of validation, I sing, I follow tutorials, I play games and just keep doing fun – almost childish – activities.
It is not about creating a perfect schedule or routine; the most important thing is to create powerful ways of learning that will help you really memorize and learn long-term.
Why mixing creativity and language learning?
Sometimes we underestimate the power of creation, or even worse, we think we are not capable of coming up with good ideas. In reality, we just have to think of creativity as a natural way of thinking. Changing up your language routine is not only necessary to be constantly progressing – because you have to learn different things in each stage of your learning – but also so you can stay motivated.
Once again, the point is to find innovative ways to make your language learning more efficient. If that way includes crafts, do it! It might include going to a language cafe, translating songs or playing video games in your target language.
I am sure that most of us are interested in many things, so mix and match your passions. Let one inspire the other. Find like-minded people and enjoy the language process as much as you can! Languages are everywhere, so there’s no excuse! It is time to create and learn.
Oh, and remember to have a lot of fun with it!
Written by Mari Polyglot
Illustrated by Mari Polyglot
Edited by Lindie Botes
Mari is a language enthusiast from Venezuela with a passion for teaching. She hopes to one day serve as an inspiration and guide for future polyglots.
Instagram / Twitter : @MariPolyglot