I’m currently learning two languages (French and Korean) on top of my native English. In doing so, I’ve learned that studying foreign languages, especially when you did not grow up being bilingual, can be extremely difficult. I am on no account an expert linguist, but I have been obsessed with foreign films since I was a young teen, so I’ve heard a lot of languages and been obsessed with language itself whether fictional Dothraki or Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. I firmly believe that learning a different language can be an incredibly good experience for everyone at any point in their life.
But what’s the point of spending hours, days, even years studying a language? What are the benefits? In deciding to learn new languages, I did a lot of research and I thought I would impart some of the cool knowledge I’ve learned. Again, I’m not a scientist; I’m just a writer who loves languages.
1. It Stimulates Your Brain
Similar to how brain games stimulate your brain and can lower the chances of developing memory diseases, learning a language helps to quicken your brain function. Studying a second language can increase your concentration as well analytical and problem-solving abilities.
Pretty much, it makes you brain work is different ways, using both sides of your brain (the creative side and the logical, mathematical side).
2. You Learn About a Different Culture
If you only speak one language, you may not understand this, but languages rarely directly translate. And if you try to (like Google translate does), nothing turns out well. This is because language is just as much about the culture surrounding it as it is about the words and grammar themselves. Some concepts are impossible to easily translate. Because of this, in order to learn a new language you must also immerse yourself in understanding the culture of which the language came from.
In this way, you learn about different people and a different culture.
Learning a language is humbling because it helps us understand what a little place we hold in a massive, complex world.
3. It Doesn’t Take Up That Much Time
When you hear, “I’m learning a new language,” the picture of hours of studying comes to mind, and certainly if you take a class you will probably be spending more time during a day with the language. However, if you learn the language on your own (whether with a program or book), you will be surprised to learn it actually takes only about 40 minutes a day to study.
That is not that much time, when you think about all the time we actually waste on Facebook or Youtube (yes, I’m guilty of this too). Even when you are doing monotonous tasks like washing dishes (do people actually still wash dishes by hand?) or taking the bus to work/school. If you have a long commute, there are many programs you can run with audio as you drive to learn a new language.
Thus, learning a new language does not take hours of complex study every day, especially if you discover how you learn best.
4. Aid in Career
This seems to be the most popular benefit when it comes to learning a new language. Being bilingual can be incredibly helpful when it comes to getting a job or starting a successful career. Many employers like employees who are bilingual, both in business (you can work as a translator) and ethics (it shows you are intelligent and focused).
It can also open up job opportunities which you would not have if you could not speak two (or more) languages. You could work as a translator, foreign teacher, etc.
5. But Which Language?
So, you decided you need to learn a language, but which one? The Encyclopedia Britannica has estimated the amount of languages in the world to be around 1000, though that does not take into account dead languages. That number itself sounds a bit intimidating. So, which one is right for you?
I suppose first you look at your purpose of learning a second language. If you hope to find a language which would help your career, pick languages spoken by the most people (like Spanish or Mandarin Chinese—do you know that more people speak Mandarin than English?).
Also, as I’ve learned, pick a language you like. The reasons I picked French and Korean (well, one of the reasons) is because I think they are both beautiful, gentle sounding languages. Pick languages that interest you. If you choose Spanish just because everyone is telling you to pick Spanish, that is not a good enough reason. Remember, you are the one who is going to have to do the work to learn the language, not anyone else.
What is your favorite language? Have you tried to learn another language? For those of you who grew up speaking two or more languages, is it easier to learn new languages than those people you know who only grew up learning one language? Would you guys want me to write a follow-up essay about tips on learning another language? Let me know in the comments and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,