4 Awesome Reasons to
Start Learning a New Language
By Dina Indelicato
Let’s start with the elephant in the room. Learning a new language is hard and frustrating. Even worse, the toughest and most frustrating part is right at the beginning while you only get to enjoy the fruits of your labor after several months (or even years) of work.
Yeah, that sucks.
At the same time, the fruits of your labor are pretty impressive if you’re willing to stick it out. There are few things as good for your head and development than learning another language. Here we’ll look at some of the biggest reasons why that is so.
Learning a language makes your brain better
The scientific evidence for the benefits your brain experiences when you’ve learned a new language is pretty overwhelming. Even better, a lot of these benefits start to accrue long before you actually learned that language up to fluency.
What kind of stuff am I talking about? Well:
- Your memory improves
- It boosts brain power
- It makes it easier for you to multi-task
- It makes you more aware of your surroundings
- It keeps your brain healthier for longer
- It makes you better at your first language
- It makes you a better decision maker
- It boosts your performance in other academic areas
In other words, though it’s not easy to do, learning another language will give you so many mental benefits that it’s well worth it. And really that’s not surprising. The human body often works that way. Work with your hands and you get calluses. Work with your body and you get muscle. Work with your mind and your brain strengthens.
The harder it is, the greater the benefits tend to be.
To have another language is to possess a second soul
Charlemagne the conqueror king who united Europe and created the Holy Roman Empire, said that. I imagine he understood a thing or two about different cultures. Even if he didn’t, he’d still be right.
Different languages require different ways of thinking and interacting. This effect is so strong that studies have actually shown that we have different personalities when we speak different languages.
And that’s huge! I mean, when we get to be different people in the same body, then those different personalities can actually learn from each other! Or, said in non-schizophrenic way, you will learn different ways of seeing the world through the extra language you learn and that, in turn will allow you to become a better person overall. No matter what language you’re using at that moment in time.
It opens up a new world
If you’re a monoglot who only speaks English, you might think you’ve seen other places and other cultures, but unless you traveled to English-speaking countries only I’m here to tell you that this is not true.
When you arrive in a country and you don’t speak the language, then you’ll never really understand how people think or why people do what they do. There are many reasons for this. For example, those people who do speak English aren’t really the average people of that country. They’ve already been anglicized and infected with English culture.
Then there is the problem that you simply can’t explain certain concepts from a country in another language. The words aren’t there.
And finally, there’s the effort. If you don’t speak the language and don’t even try, then people will assume you’re not really interested and in many ways they’re right. And if you’re not interested in them, they’re not going to be terribly interested in you either. And so, opportunities to connect fizzle away and you’ll find yourself not interacting with the locals but with other foreigners moving through that culture.
That’s something I always struggle to understand. Why travel when you’re just going to hang out with people from home?
Then there’s the future
That doesn’t convince you? Fine, I get it. Who wants to be smarter, have a second soul and be able to actually really communicate with the people of the country they’re traveling through. Humbug to that!
But what about the future?
On a personal level, having an extra language means being able to work in a lot more places. You don’t even have to go abroad to do so. Many times, people will travel to your country and not speak your language. Being able to speak theirs will give you a huge advantage.
Or you can work for one of the many translation companies out there – whether as a freelancer or an employee of the largest translation companies.
On a global level, English might be the dominant language right now but who says that will be true forever? The economic gravity is slipping east. That means that at one point it is entirely possible that the lingua franca of the world will start slipping eastward as well.
If that happens (and it can happen quickly) then you’ll be left speaking a language that fewer and fewer other people do. That will reduce your circle of friends and circle of opportunity. Your business will be restricted to the English-speaking world and so will your travels. Who wants to do that to their future self?
The future is bilingual
The truth is that everywhere in the world people are learning additional languages. It makes sense, as the world is going to keep getting more interconnected despite what some angry old folk may want.
You’ve got two choices. You can decide to ignore that and hope that technology will translate everything for you. Or you can roll up your sleeves and start learning another language. If you choose the second option, you’re not only preparing for a more global future, but you’re getting all those extra benefits I mentioned above as well.
The argument seems pretty easy to me. It’s convincing enough that despite the fact that I hate learning extra languages today I speak four!
Dina Indelicato is a blogger enthusiast and freelance writer. She is always open to research about new topics and gain new experiences to share with her readers. You can find her on Twitter @DinaIndelicato and LinkedIn.