Most of us study a new language for utilitarian reasons. We’re visiting a country and want to be able to understand the language; we’re starting a new job with a company that does a lot of business abroad; we need it for school; and a whole host of other purpose-driven reasons.
I, for instance, got my start learning a new language when I got accepted to a position in Singapore several years ago. English, by the way, is the official language there, but a friend told me to learn a little Mandarin anyway, since it can only help. Without that motivation, though, I never would have bothered to pick up my first interactive language software. I’m sure a similar experience is mirrored among many people who have taken the trouble to learn and practice a second language.
Some people, however, seem to study language even when they don’t have a definite and specific purpose. While that may sound strange, it really isn’t, especially when you consider what language learning can represent to different people.
Language Learning Is A Challenge
Learning a second language is a challenging exercise. It requires planning, follow-through and real effort in order to succeed. To many individuals who have a hunger for knowledge, this is enough of a reason to study a language, as it allows them to experience a genuine challenge that gives their mental faculties a welcome exercise.
In a lot of ways, language learning will push you to do things you normally wouldn’t do. As such, it can hone you in many areas you otherwise wouldn’t be able to put through a workout in your day-to-day activities, letting you hone skills and abilities that would otherwise be dying of ennui.
Language Learning Trains Social Skills
Think it’s hard socializing with a new group of people? Try socializing with a new group of people who speak a language that’s foreign to you. That’s, essentially, what you do when you try to use a second language you’re learning in public.
The same holds true even when you’re practicing among peers (e.g. fellow language learners). The fact that you’re all still inept and awkward at the language can create a unique barrier that makes communicating difficult.
Almost every language learner I know loves this part of the process in hindsight, but absolutely hated it during the time. After all, this forces you to deal with fears and anxieties you won’t even need to encounter on a normal day, so it’s, essentially, putting yourself in a difficult situation just for the hell of it. The good news is, the end result for this part of the learning process is almost always the same — you come out of it with a lot more confidence to use the language in the real world.
Language Learning Sharpens The Mind
If you find yourself yearning for an intellectual challenge, language learning can provide that in spades. While a lot of language learning is about memorizing vocabulary, the path towards integrating those into your communication requires a deeper understanding of what the words mean and the ability to identify how they relate to each other.
And don’t even get me started on grammar. I really think grammar is one of the best things to study when you want to train your brain in abstract concepts — that’s just its nature. Of course, there are many ways to give the mind an exercise, but very few that will likely be as satisfying as learning a new language, which you can easily find applications for in your real life.
Language Learning Can Open New Doors
Learning a new language can open doors you never even knew existed for you.
- Education – You gain access to a whole new world of research material and study opportunities, all of which you can use in whatever field of learning you’re interested in. Knowledge of a foreign language should also increase your chances of acceptance if you want to join a study program abroad.
- Career – Even if you aren’t looking for a new career at the moment, language learning can open up many opportunities in the future. Even in your current organization (especially if you work for a mid- to large-size company), you can use second language abilities to your advantage to further your advancement. After all, it’s a specialty skill that few people often choose to develop without an immediate incentive.
- Social – Knowledge of a foreign language in your arsenal gives you the ability to interact and communicate with more people. With the world as small as it is today (thanks, in large part, to the internet), a second language opens up new avenues to meet people and create friendships.
Language Learning Helps You Appreciate International Culture
Interested in a country? Instead of reading books and looking at pictures, try to learn its language. Few things can give you an authentic taste of what a place is about better than learning how people there communicate. Language learning allows you to appreciate the uniqueness of a culture, giving you insight into their beliefs, traditions and outlooks on life.
Language Learning Can Boost Confidence
The fact that you started learning something from scratch, persevered and succeeded in the end (we’re assuming you can successfully learn some of the language, of course) should provide a big boost to your confidence. While it may not sound like much, this achievement can help your self-belief when it comes to learning new and challenging tasks. Maybe you really can do anything, right?
Why Do You Want To Study A Foreign Language?
Of course, all the above reasons we listed are just what we’ve observed — both from personal experience and the experience of others. What will push you to study a foreign language is entirely your own. And we know you’re interested simply because you’re reading this.
So what is it? What is it that motivates you to study a second (or third or fourth) language? Once you have the clear answer, write it down and keep it as a constant reminder of why you’re devoting time and energy into the activity.