10 reasons to learn a foreign language
In a world where everyone supposedly speaks English, as the business language of the world, it is hard to justify learning a new language. But, you need to stop a moment. First, this presumes your first language is English. Second, it suggests that the only reason to learn a language is to communicate. There are so many reasons why you might want to learn another language, maybe even two. Let’s introduce you to just a few!
Bottom-line, you should learn a language to better understand the countries you visit. Imagine visiting Japan and experiencing it only in English. How can you possibly appreciate the history, the art, the food – if you only see it through the eyes of a tourist. To fully appreciate the culture of any country, you need to see it through the lens of the language spoken by its natives.
On a simple level, you might see a pattern in the place names or the reason why a certain holiday is observed. But, with the language of a country learnt, you can appreciate the history and the traditions observed.
You really don’t want to be that person who shouts at a foreigner in the hope that they will understand if only you speak louder.
It is likely that you will be able to get by in a country using your first language. You might even try a little pidgin French or guidebook German. However, to show proper respect to the countries you visit you should try to communicate to them in the native language. There is a certain arrogance in hoping the people you are visiting should adapt how they speak to help you. Therefore, learning a language is about showing respect to the people who are your host.
But, if you are in business, learning the language of the country can help build relationships with those you are working with. It may be that all the business will be done in English – including documentation and legal contracts. However, the subtleties of forming a business relationship sometimes needs a native language with all its subtleties of meaning. Not only does it allow for nuances of meaning but it also shows a commitment to the connections being made.
Even if people don’t mind you going around the world speaking English, imagine all that you are missing out on. You could visit many off-the-beaten-track places and try and find the authentic country but you won’t be able to hear the stories or listen to local conversation. By learning the language, you get to speak to every isolated villager you meet, to fully experience what it means to travel.
If all this sounds far too virtuous so far, let’s throw in one that everyone understands. If you learn a language you get to show off in front of your friends. You go to a restaurant and you order from the menu, conversing happily with the waiter whilst your friends’ mouths drop open in amazement. You just look smart!
By learning a language, you can better understand differences and the variety they bring to our lives. There is something wonderful about the passion of Italian, about the functionality of German, about the poetics of Japanese. By learning these languages, you begin to understand the wonders of the world and why it is our differences that makes life wonderful.
As well as highlighting how diverse the world is, by learning a language you can understand some of our shared histories. If you have ever learnt English as a second language you will hear the influence of Germanic languages, of the Latinate languages but also the influences from Africa and Asia due to the history of Imperialism. There are so many shared words and sentence patterns across languages, which show us how we are more similar than we are different.
Many people will tell you that they never truly understood grammar until they learnt a second language. By learning languages, you get an outstanding understanding of the patterns and rules of language. You understand how sentences are formed and how vocabulary should be employed. By learning a second language, you are exposed to new ways of communicating in your home language that is unique.
There are more practical reasons for wanting to learn a language. There are a whole host of films and music, maybe even books, that you can better enjoy because you can enjoy them in the native language. There is nothing worse than having to read subtitles or listen to the dubbed over voices of native speakers. Learning the language means you can appreciate the film as it was meant to be enjoyed. You can listen to the lyrics of music and hear the soul of the musician. You can read the text in the language used by the author and take your own subtleties from the text – rather than the influence of the translator.
Learning a language will fire neurons in the brain that make you clever. Apparently learning a language causes your hippocampus, your middle frontal gyrus, inferior frontal gyrus and superior temporal gyrus to grow bigger. This basically means you have more grey matter – the stuff that gives us our higher functioning.
You will become a better listener, become more creative, increase your non-verbal intelligence and increase your memory – all through the act of learning a language. It is going to keep your brain young and stop it from degrading. There is nothing better for keeping your brain young than through learning a language.
So, there you go… there are so many reasons why you should learn a language. You must be wondering why you ever thought language learning would fall out of fashion. It is about understanding our world and being a better person ourselves. Time to sign up for that course now?