Social Benefits of Learning a Second Language: 6 Big Ones
Life is full of social situations.
From social media to getting to know co-workers to hanging out with friends, chances are that being social has infiltrated all areas of your life.
Whether or not you want it to.
And let’s be real: You probably don’t want it to when your news feed is flooded with jealousy-inducing vacation pics.
But the social part of your life goes much deeper than what anyone sees on Facebook. And with socialness playing such a major role in your life, maybe you want a major upgrade.
Whether you wish you could have more fun at parties, hold deeper relationships or even just interact with more people, learning a language can give you the social boost you’re looking for.
While speaking a foreign language can actually cause anxiety for some at first, over time, you may find that a better social life is one of the many advantages of learning a foreign language for you.
Not only will language skills boost your job opportunities, they can also give you more opportunities to connect with others on a personal level as well as the understanding you need to enjoy those opportunities.
So if you’re looking for some of the best language learning motivation available, look no further than these six serious social benefits you could gain by learning a second language.
How to Get the Most Social Benefits Out of Learning a Second Language
Interact with native speakers as much as possible.
Not only will interacting with native speakers give you the practice you need to improve your language skills, it will also provide you with an awesome social opportunity to connect with someone else over the details of your lives and cultures.
If you already know native speakers near you, you might be able to get together in person and maybe even become friends over time.
If not, you can find a language exchange partner through a service like Conversation Exchange, which allows you to search for native speakers near you and/or find an online partner.
Learn about culture in addition to language.
Learning about cultures associated with your target language can increase your motivation to learn the language. However, understanding details about another culture is also inherently valuable for socializing. After all, if you endeavor to have more awareness of the people and situations around you, you can avoid faux pas and navigate through interactions with more consideration for others.
One helpful tool to start learning more about world cultures is Every Culture, which gives an abundance of information on cultures in different countries around the world.
Use authentic resources to prepare for native-level communication.
If you can’t go abroad to get the language practice you need, using authentic resources can give you similar native-level experiences that can provide you with skills for better social interactions down the road.
You can find authentic content for virtually any language on YouTube. Whether you prefer watching vloggers, other YouTubers or your favorite movies, TV shows and music videos, you’ll find more authentic content than you could hope to watch in a lifetime. For instance, if you’re learning Spanish, check out popular Chilean YouTuber HolaSoyGerman. Studying French? There are tons of playlists of French movies with various subtitling options, including “French films with French subtitles.”
Now let’s see exactly what’s to be gained on a social level from learning a language the authentic way.
6 Serious Social Benefits of Learning a Second Language
Better ability to see the perspectives of others.
Studies have found that multilingual children have some advantages when it comes to social situations. One study showed that bilingual children could better interpret an adult’s intended meaning than monolingual children. It’s thought that because bilingual children need to select which language to use in each context, they may be better at considering the perspectives of others.
While it’s unclear if these skills carry over to adulthood, one can hope that the added perspective of knowing another language and the ability to interpret context does have some effect.
And if so, this could put language learners at a distinct advantage when it comes to needing to interpret information that might otherwise seem unclear. For instance, if your boss tells you he needs the report ASAP but you’re unsure of which report he means, your increased ability to see things from his perspective might help you deduce that the report he needs is the one related to his upcoming meeting.
The ability to clarify what you mean in another language is tremendously helpful in plenty of social situations. Not everyone speaks your native language, and speaking an additional language can give you a valuable way to clarify what you mean when someone who speaks that language doesn’t understand you. Even if you’re not fully proficient in a second language, you and your conversation partner may each know enough of the other’s language to piece together what you need to communicate.
For instance, if you travel abroad and need to know where the bathroom is, it’s easiest to ask in the local language. If you don’t know the language very well, you might not fully understand the response, but at the very least, the person you’re talking to can understand your meaning well enough to point you in the right direction.
Making the effort to communicate with whatever language skills you do have could also make you a more resourceful communicator in general.
Deeper personal connections with native speakers.
Nelson Mandela put it best: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
And it’s true: Communicating in someone’s native language is a great way to not only show respect, but also connect with them on a deeper level.
For instance, if you have a friend whose native language is Russian and they speak English with you, you may feel a deeper connection with them than if you had to communicate exclusively in Russian. And speaking Russian with them can in turn put them at ease and better cement your bond.
Improved language abilities with your first language.
Studying any language can improve your understanding of your native language. Since most people learn their first language naturally through observation, they may not know the underlying rules and logic of how it works. Instead, they simply know how the language works from experience.
When you learn a second language, though, you learn the rules. Oftentimes, these rules correlate with rules in your native language, thereby helping you better understand how your own language works.
For instance, native English speakers might struggle with the subjunctive. Would you say “if I was rich,” or “if I were rich” when discussing a potential lottery win? However, someone who had more awareness of the subjunctive from rules learned from Spanish might understand that while English speakers might be as likely to say one as the other, it’s “if I were rich” that technically specifies a theoretical scenario.
Knowing and understanding grammar rules can build your confidence and ensure you’re communicating clearly in your native tongue, and that you’re aware of the mechanisms of your language, even if these mechanisms are used inconsistently or loosely in real conversation, as with the above example. If nothing else, you might be able to skillfully avoid the embarrassment of having your grammar corrected on your social media accounts.
Increased cultural awareness and understanding.
Since embracing culture differences is usually encouraged in language study, language students frequently have better cultural awareness than people who speak only one language.
In an increasingly global community, this is invaluable and may come in handy throughout your life. For instance, if you’ve studied Japanese, chances are that you’re much more aware than you otherwise would be of how communication works in Japan, such as how various gestures there might differ from those in other countries.
So if you’re interacting with someone in or from Japan, knowing this information can help you conduct yourself in an appropriately respectful manner and to understand the other person’s meanings and intentions.
Improved confidence and self-awareness.
There’s no doubt that learning another language changes you. As you learn and get better at the language, you’re likely to find you have increased confidence and self-awareness.
Some of this may come from learning a valuable new skill that you enjoy using, but language instruction also relies heavily on social interaction, so the practice alone can be a confidence builder.
Many language classes have you practice holding conversations in your target language. Not only can this increase your social confidence, it can also improve your awareness of yourself and who you are, since you’ll frequently end up discussing subjects related to yourself and your life.
So do you want to get social?
If so, start learning a language today to claim these serious social benefits.