“I speak English and English is the language of the world, I don’t need to learn any new ones.”
Ever heard anyone say that? While it might make sense in your neck of the woods where people speak English, it’s really a bit off from what’s really going on. For instance, less than 6% of the world’s population speak English as their primary language, with twice of that speaking it as a second or third language. Even at those numbers, English speakers remain but a small patch of the world population, so relying on it to communicate with the rest of world just isn’t that great an idea.
Fact is, there are plenty of reasons why you would want to learn a new language. Here are some of them.
Better Global Understanding
It may sound like one of those lofty, “world peace”-type platitudes, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Learning the language of other countries allows the student to step into the heart of that country’s culture, fostering better understanding of those people’s actions, behaviors and attitudes. In many ways, it exposes you to a large amount of unfamiliar ideas — ones that may be common in the culture from where the target language comes from, but totally alien to you. Once you are able to see a country in this light, it becomes a lot easier to be more open and accepting of other cultures, as well — even those that don’t speak the foreign language you just learned.
Better Career Options
Knowledge of a foreign language on its own can get you hired in some positions. Combining it with a college major and previous work experience can mean greater avenues for your professional career, especially in tourism, hospitality, academic and similar service industries.
While those fields are the ones that traditionally employ multi-lingual speakers, your options are not restricted to them. A lot of businesses have now gone global and it’s not just the huge multinationals doing it. Small factories in China, small call centers in Asia, mid-sized American hospitals and other types of businesses now deal with clients and suppliers all over the world, making second-language speakers a particularly valuable asset.
Say you want to work for a company that does business in Japan. While the actual hiring criteria can hinge on many factors, you can bet that Japanese language skills will be a huge asset that can get you shortlisted very quickly. Same with pretty much any company does business in other countries or intend to — language ability is just a big upside that can really do you good.
If you plan to work or study in other countries, then knowing the language is definitely one way to get your foot in the door. I mean, it’s just logical. Why would a university in Germany want you if all you speak in English when they can find similarly qualified students who have several months of practice in the native language?
Improve Language Acuity
Research has shown that exposure to other languages actually expands people’s understanding and appreciation of their own native language. Why? We’re not exactly sure, although almost every research we’ve seen have found language learners to have higher reading achievement, enhanced listening skills and improved memory. Maybe, the mere fact that you’re using your brain to learn a new language hones those areas that let you improve in specific abilities with your first language as well.
Learning a new language makes travel a lot easier on your end, allowing you to communicate with locals without relying strictly on gestures and an open phrasebook on the spot. As you can guess, this will lead to more exciting opportunities when you’re in the country, better interactions with people you encounter and an overall easier time getting around the area. Everything, from finding a nice hotel to riding a bus to shopping at the local market, will be a lot less troublesome.
Speaking the language allows you to participate in the day-to-day life in a country where it’s spoken — a far cry from the kinds of things most tourists get to experience when visiting foreign land. Basically, you get the room to immerse yourself in most anything locals can do without the language getting in the way. Compare that to what most tourists do, which is stay in places where they can use English and limit their interactions with local folks to avoid the hassle of the language barrier.
Gain Access To Foreign Writing
If you’re interested in literature that comes from international sources, learning foreign languages will help you in that quest. While important works are likely to be translated into English at some point, that’s usually limited to a very narrow selection. Whether you’re interested in literary works, scientific papers or academic documents from other countries, learning the language puts a wider range of materials at your disposal. There’s no need to cross your fingers and hope something gets translated soon — you can pick up the work and read it all by yourself.
Keep The Mind Sharp
Looking for an intellectual challenge? Learning a foreign language definitely qualifies as one. Language learning enhances cognitive abilities, sharpening creativity, mental flexibility and high-order thinking skills. Both taking language lessons and practicing them puts you through various situations that test your ability to solve problems, deal with unknown variables and employ logical reasoning. If you’ve been spending time doing routine or mindless work, language learning could offer a great avenue to put your thinking hat on and challenge your mind a bit.
Gain New Life Skills
Language learning does more than put you through the same activities that you already experienced in years upon years of traditional schooling. While the classroom, lecture and studying part of language learning may be similar to what you do in high school or college, the practice and application parts aren’t. Active language learning teaches you to think on your feet, handle new situations and communicate effectively using a limited vocabulary. Chances are you’ll find yourself developing useful life skills in the process, especially with regards to learning and communication.