We live in a hyper-connected, fast-paced world, and things aren’t changing anytime soon.
As our world becomes more and more connected through technological advances, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that learning another language is beneficial for many reasons.
Below, I’ll share just a few of the many positive side effects of becoming bilingual (or multilingual).
- 9 Advantages of Learning a Foreign Language (+ Resources!)
- 1. Meet new people
- 2. Employers love it (and they’ll love you more)
- 3. It’s becoming essential
- 4. It’s great for traveling
- 5. After learning one, it’s 1000x easier to learn another
- 6. You become smarter
- 7. You’ll stay smarter for longer
- 8. It boosts your creativity
- 9. It builds up your self-confidence
- So, How Do I Get Started?
9 Advantages of Learning a Foreign Language (+ Resources!)
1. Meet new people
One of the most phenomenal benefits of learning a new language? Doors are opened to you around the world. If you’re learning in a group setting, you immediately have new friends to share your new language with. If not, then once you go somewhere and are actually able to employ what you’ve learned, you’ll be surprised how open people are when you speak their mother tongue.
2. Employers love it (and they’ll love you more)
If your C.V. accolades include fluency in a second language, your chances of employment in today’s economy are much greater for you than for those who speak only one language.
Multilingual people are able to communicate and interact within multiple communities. Potential employers consider this a valuable asset in an employee’s skill set, as they’re able to connect with a broader range of people. In this new age of start-ups, companies are increasingly breaking into new markets. You up your personal and professional value if you’re able to negotiate with manufacturers in another country or communicate with customers who don’t speak your native language.
Not to mention, your ability to speak a second language conveys that you’re motivated and driven to learn new skills, and this also gives you a competitive edge over those who haven’t yet become bilingual.
3. It’s becoming essential
Many would argue that bilingualism is becoming a progressively necessary and essential skill for anyone who wants to keep up with today’s rapidly increasing global economy. As more and more people recognize the importance of learning an additional language, those who only speak one language will begin to get left behind in our shift towards a more integrated and connected global society.
4. It’s great for traveling
Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein is credited with saying that “the limits of your language are the limits of your world,” and he was right.
Knowing more than one language opens up your vacation destination possibilities. Traveling through a foreign country becomes much easier if you can speak the language of that country. Fluency isn’t required. Locals anywhere appreciate that you’ve taken the time to at least attempt to learn and communicate in their tongue. It shows a greater level of respect and is an easy way to meet new people.
Also, getting to a comfortable speaking level in a foreign language is a great motivator to get you out there and practicing your new language in a new country.
5. After learning one, it’s 1000x easier to learn another
As you begin to learn a second language, you’ll find that the acquisition techniques you’re using can be applied to learning additional languages as well.
The positive cognitive effects of learning to speak a second language can train the brain to analyze and process different linguistic structures. It’s not specific to your first target language — it’s a skill that can be applied to learning any language.
You’re increasing your ability to replicate the process with multiple languages. This is called “metalinguistic awareness,” where your brain learns to identify the techniques of learning a language and break them down into a series of steps. After learning one language, you retain the muscle memory. Your brain will intrinsically understand how to learn a language and how different languages are structured, through increased awareness of syntax, grammar and sentence structure.
6. You become smarter
Acquiring a second language improves your memory and increases your attention span. The process of becoming bilingual exercises your brain, challenges you to concentrate and boosts your problem solving skills.
Bilingual students tend to score higher on standardized tests than monolingual students, especially in the areas of vocabulary, reading and math. As you learn to toggle from one language to another, you improve your multitasking abilities. Bilingual individuals have also been shown to be more logical and rational, have better decision-making skills and be more perceptive and aware of their surroundings.
Learning a second language also improves your native language, as it teaches you the mechanics and structure behind any language — not just new languages.
7. You’ll stay smarter for longer
Recent research has shown that bilingualism can stave off the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia by years. Regardless of their education level, gender or occupation, bilingual subjects in the linked study experienced the onset of Alzheimer’s, on average, 4 1/2 years later than monolingual subjects did.
Study results out of the American Academy of Neurology are showing that speaking more than one language increases the amount of neural pathways in the brain, allowing information to be processed through a greater variety of channels. They’ve also begun to demonstrate that multilingualism improves development in the brain’s areas of executive function and attention, no matter what age the language learner is.
8. It boosts your creativity
Researchers are also concluding that multilingual speakers are more creative than monolingual speakers. Learning a foreign language improves not only your ability to solve problems and to think more logically, it also makes you experiment with new words and phrases.
Leveling up your second language skills forces you to reach for alternate words when you can’t quite remember the original one you wanted to use. It improves your skills in divergent thinking, which is the ability to identify multiple solutions to a single problem.
9. It builds up your self-confidence
You’re about to teach yourself to believe, “yes, I can.” It’ll become your new personal mantra.
Confidence increases when a new skill is mastered, and learning a foreign language is no different. It increases your self-confidence. And let’s face it: confident people are more interesting than those who are unsure of themselves. The techniques you use to develop a second tongue result in a greater sense of open-mindedness.
In order to master a new language, conversations with native and fluent speakers are essential. If you’re shy but want to meet new people, using the excuse that you want to practice your speaking skills is a great opener and a doorway to making new friends, expanding your horizons and broadening your life experiences. Plus, who doesn’t want to be more interesting?
So, How Do I Get Started?
Fortunately, gone are the days where the only way to learn a second language was to either become stranded in a foreign country or go back to high school language classes (and be honest, did you actually learn all that much in there?) There are now many different online lessons and tutorials to help you become proficient in the language of your choice.
Duolingo is a really popular way to learn a language on-the-go. They provide a handy app that you can take with you anywhere.
FluentU is another option, if you prefer to learn with authentic content like movie clips, commercials, music videos and other real media in your target language. Videos are accompanied by interactive dual-language subtitles, while quizzes and flashcards make sure you retain new knowledge.
No matter which tools you use when you decide to learn a language, just decide to learn one! You won’t regret it.