When it comes to languages, many of us seem to suffice in learning just one ? namely, English. After all, everything in America seems to be centered off of the English language, and according to the 15th edition of the Ethnologue, it’s the most influential language in the world. Many of us stumbled through the required language courses in school, barely retaining any of what was learned and, needless to say, are far from fluency. Yet, learning another language can pose so many benefits, such as allowing you to be more higher-achieving, versatile, and knowledgeable.
Studies have shown that learning a new language improves your mind. The ACTFL references several studies that show students who know multiple languages are generally higher performing than students who don’t. Learning a new language can improve your memory, as you’re required to know more vocabulary and structures, allowing you to multitask better, and make you more observant to your surroundings. Learning a language is far from easy, but as challenging as it can be, it also sharpens your mind and allows your brain and critical thinking skills to function better.
Learning a language can also improve your skills in your first language. As you learn about the different tenses, conjugations, syntax, devices, and all the elements of a language, you simultaneously reference your first language to draw comparisons, interpretations, and find a way to draw a connection to make the learning process easier. Doing so allows you to understand your first language better, and it also makes you a better listener as you familiarize yourself with the different meanings and nuances of the language.
Learning a language can also make you more empathetic. A language is always tied to the people by which it is used, and it’s nearly impossible to learn one without the other. As you gain knowledge about different places, cultures, and lifestyles of people who speak that foreign language, you’re immersing yourself within someone else’s perspective ? someone in a completely different position from you ? and embracing the nuances of their culture. Furthermore, you’ll generally gain more knowledge about different parts of the world, which can make you a more informed and learned individual.
Finally, being able to speak multiple languages is useful, whether it’s for a future career, traveling abroad, or socializing with other people. In terms of career choices, being multilingual makes you a more versatile and useful candidate for a position, as you have an extra skill that most others don’t. Not only that, but even when just traveling, knowing the language of that country can account for a more immersive experience because you’re already familiar with the culture. But most importantly, within the cultural melting pot of America, there’s a high chance that the new language you’ve learned is one already spoken by a large community. Knowing another language can allow you to interact with certain groups of people, and due to your flexibility with interactions and communication, can even help someone feel more welcomed or accepted, especially if they are an immigrant.
Whether it’s via apps like Duolingo, a school course, online classes, or even just books and TV shows, there are so many ways that we can pick up a new language. Although becoming fluent can take years, the benefits of learning a new language are well worth the time and effort. For many of us who are looking for something new to do, we should all try to teach ourselves something new.