What are the reasons for learning foreign languages? Sometimes, people are ignited by the curiosity to see the world, by romance, by the dream of a career or by pure ambition.
Learning a new language can be challenging at times, but succeeding in it can bring you dividends. On the other hand, remaining monolingual, can mean a huge loss in different aspects life: personal, professional, social, and even economic. As I don’t want you to be trapped in any of them, I’m including here 10 excellent reasons for learning foreign languages.
1. To Improve Your Own Language
Research shows that students who know other languages have a better understanding of language in general and are able to use their native language more effectively.
While learning a foreign language, students engage in an incredible comparison journey of their native language and the target language which helps discover why their language is the way it is and why the other language is different. They become more focused and exercise their brain more intensely, leading to stronger vocabulary skills, better understanding of their own language and improved literacy in general.
There is also a strong correlation between extended foreign language study with higher reading achievement as well as enhanced listening skills and memory.
2. Because Learning a Second Language is Much Easier
After you learn one foreign language, learning a second language is much easier. You already have an idea of what to expect from yourself; and you have already created a system that helps you master vocabulary and put it into practice. Now, you can compare your own language as well as the first language you’ve already conquered to the new language you’re learning.
3. To Improve Cognitive and Life Skills
Studying a language implies the use of a variety of learning skills. Therefore, learning a foreign language can enhance one’s ability to learn and function in several other areas.
People who have learned foreign languages show greater cognitive development in areas of mental flexibility, creativity, and higher thinking skills, resulting in better problem-solving, conceptualization, and reasoning.
As the students discover new cultural ideas, they become better equipped to adapt and cope in our fast-changing world. They also learn how to deal with different situations and are better prepared to respond with tolerance, understanding and effective communication to people from diverse walks of life.
4. College and Graduate Schools Require Languages
Nowadays, in the United States, most colleges and universities require a minimum of two years of high school foreign language instruction for admission. Most undergraduate programs also require language courses as part of their curriculum to acquire a degree. Many majors even require the study of more than one language to ensure success in the given field.
For students planning to continue on to graduate study, most fields also require the knowledge of a second language, and sometimes, even a third one to enter the program. From mathematics to anthropology, from biology to art history, most graduate courses will require the study of a foreign language. In some doctoral programs, students are even expected to have high level reading in other languages as important research is often published in languages other than English.
5. To Enhance Career Choices
When you know a foreign language, you can compete for jobs that call for that specific language. With that knowledge added to your resume, you will have better career choices. It might make a significant difference in your earnings as well as in your area of influence.
Globalization has become a popular word in recent years, and many companies know that entering the international market is inevitable. As they do, they need competent foreign language speakers to represent them and negotiate on their behalf.
Besides, those international companies, there is a broad array of organizations that need well trained employees with foreign language skills: government agencies, travel agencies and companies, engineering, communications, the field of education, international law, economics, public policy, publishing, advertising, entertainment, and scientific research.
6. Better Appreciation of Literature, Music and Film
The majority of the literary works in the world have been written in languages other than English. While there are English translations of many great works, reading a book in its original language can make a big difference for the reader to really appreciate the author’s intended meaning. Knowing the target language will help him to understand the writers choice of words, metaphors, innuendos, and cultural references, and will avoid any loss in translation.
Knowing a foreign language also helps a person to fully appreciate other forms of art such as theater, music, and film.
7. Learn About Oneself and the Culture
There is a huge connection between language and culture. As someone learns a foreign language, he can definitely be enlightened in the behavior and customs of the people of another nation.
As you learn another language, you have the opportunity to compare your customs, traditions, and norms to those of the people in the target language. Inevitably you will realize why you are what you are and how much your culture played a role in it. Intercultural experiences widen your ways and perspectives to see things and appreciate life.
8. Enhances Your Travel Experience
Knowing another language certainly enhances your travel experience: The traveler can engage more easily with the country folk. Of course, there is not a requirement to learn a language to travel to a foreign country. There are plenty of tours with guides who speak most languages. However, your understanding of the culture and communication with the native folks will totally depend on what your tour guide does.
On the other hand, Knowing the target language of the country you’re visiting, gives you the opportunity to experience the local people and their culture more closely. It gives you the confidence to walk around on your own. You will be able to order food in a restaurant, to ask for and understand directions, and to even negotiate prices when buying something from vendors. Also, in most countries, locals appreciate when you make an effort to learn their language, and they are much more receptive and willing to help.
9. Improve Global Communication
Learning another language allows you the ability to step inside the mind of the natives and to understand the context of the culture. It not only enables you to express yourself in a new language, but also to communicate with foreigners taking into consideration their culture.
Lack of intercultural sensitivity can lead to mistrust and misunderstandings, the inability to cooperate, negotiate, and compromise, and perhaps, even to military confrontation between two nations.
Intercultural understanding begins with an individual who has language skills and who can provide this own nation or community with an insider’s view into a foreign culture; who can understand foreign news sources, and give insights into other perspectives on international situations and current events. Someone who utilizes a foreign language well can be the bridge to clarify the terms of negotiations, to resolve conflicts and to guarantee trade and peace among different nations.
10. Just for Your Enjoyment
Each language has its own unique beauty, and you might decide to learn one just for your own enjoyment. From its written form to its sounds, from its grammatical patterns to its speaking rhythm, it is simply fascinating to immerse oneself into the discovery of a new language.
I don’t know about you, but I would love to study them all. I believe that when someone wishes to learn a foreign language for whatever reason it maybe – and really gets into it, learning can be fun and very rewarding. As you grow in the knowledge of the new language and the culture, comparing them to your own, you embark in a new universe and uncover things that you had never dreamed of.