LEARN ABOUT LANGUAGES – EARN A MILLION FRIENDS ALL OVER THE WORLD
The limits of our language mean the limits of our world … Learning another language is not only learning different words for the same things, but learning another way to think about things … With languages, we are at home anywhere !
Despite all the reasons about the benefits of learning another language – good for your degree, good for your travels, good for your career – some people seem to think that being multilingual isn’t all that important anymore. We’re here to remind you that not only is it important, it may very well be necessary.
It’s true that there are more and more people learning and speaking English these days. In fact, English is, according to some measures, the most widely spoken language in the world. Approximately 1.5 billion people around the world speak English, whether as their native tongue or as a foreign language, and this number is still growing.
With ever-increasing levels of international trade and business, tourism, immigration, and random cross-cultural experiences, chances are we will eventually find ourself face-to-face with someone who doesn’t speak English, at least not up to a level we understand. The reasons to learn a foreign language or two have never been stronger. You don’t need to be a polyglot, but read on for reasons why language learning is still important.
Learn a foreign language for school
Learning a new language can be a part of our preparation for college or graduate school. Being able to speak a foreign language — especially an in demand language like Chinese, Arabic or Spanish — and having experience with a different culture looks good on any application.
Many undergraduate programs and even some postgraduate courses have foreign language courses as part of their major or graduation requirements. Today mostly all schools require all incoming students to know a second language in addition to English.
It’s necessary for our work
There aren’t many situations where language skills are the reason that someone gets passed over for a promotion, or even just to keep the job. But in an increasingly competitive job market, why would we not give ourself every possible edge?
But it’s not just about padding our resume. With globalization in full swing, there’s a good chance we’ll be working with people whose first language isn’t English. Maybe it’s a development team in India, or a manufacturing plant in China, or an alternative energy supplier in Germany; being able to communicate in other languages makes us much more valuable to an employer.
It might be strange at first to think that we have to learn a new language for family reasons, but many people hail from immigrant families, and once we get into the second and third generation, it’s very often the case where the local language is our first language rather than our family’s original tongue.
Unless our travel plans involve only English-speaking countries, we’ll probably want to learn a new language to make things easier for ourself.
Even knowing some basic words can help break the ice when we’re in a foreign country. It’s not the same as being able to have an entire conversation, but most people appreciate the fact that we’re trying to speak their language, even if we have to switch back to English right away.
Learn about other cultures
Let’s face it, language and culture go hand in hand. If we want to learn about Kenyan culture, Indian culture, or Chinese culture, we should probably learn some Swahili, Hindi, or Mandarin, respectively. There’s so much we can learn from a book or a video but to truly understand a culture, we have to know what the people are talking about.
Imagine trying to learn about American culture without understanding English. Imagine trying to understand the American humor, or the lyrics of Bob Dylan, or the works of Shakespeare without actually knowing what the words mean. Cultural subtleties and pop culture references might be totally lost without some grasp of the local language.
Most people like to hang around others who are similar to themselves, but there are a few people who enjoy meeting people who are different. People who think differently or act differently. And what better way to start diversifying our friend group than learning a new language?
Of course, sometimes making new friends leads to attracting a partner. We’ll hear a lot of people say that they find a certain language or accent to be really sexy. Think of Gael Garcia Bernal’s Spanish or Monica Bellucci’s Italian, and we start to get the idea (yes, they’re both beautiful people already, but the language certainly helps). Learn a famous poem in a foreign language and we might just have that certain person swooning over us — especially since most of us think it’s sexy when our partner can speak a foreign language.
It’ll make us smarter and in better mental health
New research shows that being bilingual actually makes us smarter! So we don’t need to be interested in other cultures or overseas travel or improving our employability to enjoy the benefits of knowing a foreign language.
Studies have shown that speaking a second language can improve our cognitive skills, even those that don’t relate to language at all. According to one study, bilingual babies showed advanced skills in monitoring changes in their environment, compared to monolingual babies. Other study showed that thinking in a foreign language helps to reduce biases in our decision-making. There’s even research that has demonstrated that being bilingual can help delay the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
A multitude of reasons
Of course, we’re not limited to having just one specific motivation to learn a new language – most people do it for a multitude of reasons.
For example, there were two types of students who chose to study a foreign language: those who did it because they were turned on by the language and culture, and those that thought they could leverage their language skills into careers in business or government … the lines have blurred over the years, and it’s harder to see two distinct groups.
Big words like polyglot and multilingual don’t scare us, and they shouldn’t scare anybody either.
In a world that is increasingly interdependent, we can no longer afford to remain monolingual. Learning foreign languages is no longer a pastime: it is a necessity.
The development of language is part of the development of the personality, for words are the natural means of expressing thoughts and establishing understanding between people.