There are more than 7 reasons to learn a language, but these are the top ones on my list because I feel like they cover the most important aspects. I would recommend everyone learns at least one foreign language during their life for each and every one of these reasons.
I have written about the value of other cultures a bit in some of my other articles. Experiencing another culture on an intimate level is one of the most rewarding experiences in the world. Each one has good, bad, beautiful, and ugly characteristics. The more deeply you invest in any culture, the broader your critical understanding of the positive and negative components. Rest assured there are most likely far more good than bad, but instead of taking my word for it go find out for yourself.
Travel is good for the soul. Specifically travel that doesn’t center around snapping cameras at tourist traps. A little of that is certainly fine, but if you go to a new place (especially a new country with new cultures) you benefit far more from actually learning about the culture itself. (See number 1). Even if you don’t have these same reasons for wanting to travel, speaking the local language of the place you visit has many benefits. For one thing, the people you interact with will be more likely to open up and be friendly in a more authentic way. Also, the myth that “Everyone speaks English these days” is not true. Most people in tourist towns know some English. Some countries have a higher amount of English-speakers than others. People who live in areas with little opportunity or reason to practice English typically don’t speak it very well. Understanding a local language makes travel so, so much easier. I’ve certainly found during my travel experiences that things like getting lost are less stressful, and the experience as a whole is more enriching.
3. Broaden your mind
Dozens of studies suggest that fluency in multiple language makes people smarter in more areas than one. Cambridge University professor Karin Brodie believes in direct correlation between high math scores and proficiency in a foreign language. Overall, educators and researchers tend to agree that the way your brain grows while studying languages can benefit many other areas of study.
4. Connect with people
Since there are plenty of people who speak little or no English in this world, you won’t be able to connect with some people because of the language barrier. More than that, though, connecting with someone by using their native tongue changes how they perceive the interaction. It lowers their guard, and allows them to center their focus on you. Imagine you work hard and learn another language. Someone approaches you and speaks that language during the conversation. You spend a large amount of mental energy trying to keep up with the conversation, whereas that person speaking your native language would allow you to focus solely on that person. If your intent is to form a bond rather than pass the time with chit chat, being proactive about your communication style will push you closer to that goal.
5. Better pay/opportunities
We are living in an increasingly globalized world. More and more, employers are prioritizing candidates who speak more than one language for job opportunities and promotions. Some jobs even require fluency in certain languages if they have a lot of clients who speak those languages. Most times competent communication outside of a person’s native language can allow them to negotiate for increased wages or salary, especially if they have opportunities to use it in their position.
6. Learn your own language better
This connects right back with number #, but it deserves its own category because it’s such as specific type of knowledge you can gain from studying languages. Your understanding of linguistics and grammar structures will improve from learning a second language, and maybe I’m just a nerd, but it’s pretty cool. I had no idea what direct object pronouns were or what a “gerund” was. I also like to tell people about how an -o ending is masculine in Spanish words with Latin roots and feminine in words with Greek roots. Lots of crazy stuff you learn from the academic side of language learning. If you’re not interested in that, most of this information won’t stick in your head in the long run, but some will. More knowledge is always a good thing, even if you’re not a geek like me.
7. Meet another version of yourself
I’ll admit this sounds a little strange out of context. Allow me to elaborate. When I speak Spanish, there are subtle shifts in my personality. I’ve spoken with other language learners and found that others share my experience, especially once they’ve hit a high level of fluency. Though everyone experiences this differently, there are some recurring themes. The feeling of being more open in a second language is common. Many people are more expressive once they’re able to easily converse. It’s hard to describe, and it’s not a major personality shift, but there is a noticeable difference. There is some fascinating psychology to the idea that language affects your thoughts, and I’ve come to the belief that speaking different languages can cause different parts of your personality to stand out stronger.
I believe that everyone should learn at least one language beyond the one they know natively. The benefits are vast and long-living. If you have learned a new language, what were your main reasons for doing so?
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