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There are actually a lot of really good reasons to learn a foreign language besides “it’s a school requirement.” Let’s explore some of the key benefits to learning another language. We’d love to hear your reasons in the comments.
“Training your brain” is all the rage these days, and there are lots of games out there that are supposed to keep you mentally limber. Good old language learning exercises your brain, too, and studies have shown that it may even help prevent Alzheimer’s. Not only that, but you come away with the added benefit of a useful life skill, something that most brain games cannot offer.
Even if you never use it, being able to list fluency in more than one language on your resume is valuable. And of course, for jobs that do require the use of that language, you have a decided advantage over a sizeable chunk of the population. Even if you don’t expect that learning Spanish will boost your career directly, it’ll probably come in handy at some point in ways you can’t foresee.
One of the biggest benefits to language learning is a greater understanding of other cultures and customs. Being a better global citizen isn’t just a feel-good ideal; it’s a responsibility shared by us all, and one that especially English speakers in the United States could do a better job at. Other parts of the world are far more multilingual than we are, and though that is often out of necessity, it comes with a broader cultural understanding.
Another element of being a global citizen is exploring your own family heritage. If you are a descendant of Irish ancestors, learning about Irish language and culture has special significance.
We live in a world where a great many things are translated, but not everything. “You’ve not experienced Shakespeare until you have read it in the original Klingon…” as they say. Reading works of literature in their original language can be immensely rewarding. Even being able to flip through a popular magazine or trade journal and read articles in a language other than English has great value, especially if the material has not been translated. Plus, you may find a whole new world of entertainment when you start exploring foreign language TV, music, and movies!
It’s a lot cooler to say “Bonne chance!” than “Good luck!”, even if that happens to be one of a scant number of French phrases in your repertoire. And if you have the correct accent and pronunciation down, well, bonus points. Foreign accents represent something new (and literally “foreign”) to our mind, so we are wired to find an accent other than our own to be more interesting.
Many people like to train their pets to respond to foreign language commands. This is usually done for fun, but police dogs are often trained in foreign language so that only their handlers know important commands.
A foreign language can also serve as a cool, not-so-secret code – study Spanish along with your spouse, and you can talk about things you don’t want your children to overhear… at least, until the kids start picking up on the key vocabulary!
Yes, I know, I started this article off by saying key reasons besides “school requirement.” But in this case, I’m more talking about getting OUT OF that. Most high schools and colleges have a language requirement. Depending on where you are in your education, getting a jump-start on those requirements can make school easier. You may even be able to test out of the entry-level language courses in college. That leaves you with open slots in your schedule, for more advanced language courses… or for something totally different you wouldn’t otherwise have had the time for.
You really don’t need to be fluent in a foreign language to benefit from using it on a vacation to another country. Knowing just a handful of Italian survival phrases will get you through the streets of Rome more effectively than you might think. Even if you don’t have the accent quite right, or the sentence structure, or are missing a word here and there, it is a sign of respect to speak the language in another country, even if everyone you encounter probably knows a good amount of English. It’ll also make road signs and warnings a little less scary. 🙂
Learning anything new gives you a feeling of confidence and accomplishment, and learning a new language is no exception. Plus, languages themselves can be both fascinating and fun! You may even find that once you’ve learned one, you want to keep going and learn another. The next time around will be easier, because not only did you learn a new language… you also learned HOW to learn language effectively as an adult (a totally different ballgame than learning your first language, as a child). Maybe you’ll reveal that inner polyglot you never knew you had!
Turns out, learning a foreign language makes you focus on grammar and analysis that make you better in your native language, too. Many students have reported finally understanding a grammar rule in their native language through learning it as part of learning a new language. Focus on learning how to express yourself in a foreign language also makes you more cognizant about expressing yourself in general.
Through learning a new language, you will open doors of many kinds. You’ll meet others just like you, working on learning, as well as native speakers from parts of the world you may never have visited, or indeed, may never visit. One surmounted language barrier can lead to a richer life, and to friends you’d never have met otherwise. So much of life these days is about networking… who knows where your new connections might lead?
If the above has inspired to you begin or continue your own language learning journey, we invite you to try our online language program, Transparent Language Online for free. Happy language learning!
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