Back in university I majored in Anthropology and my favourite part of it was linguistics. I loved learning about how language influences culture and vice versa. I also enjoyed learning about language patterns, how people learn languages and how learning language affects the brain. Here’s a look at 15 reasons to learn a foreign language.
In university I minored in Spanish and spent a semester studying Spanish and Anthropology in Chile. Now I am currently living in Mexico City with my boyfriend and his family for the summer. I just got my first English teaching job and am so excited! Due to this I have been thinking a lot about how wonderful it is to learn different languages and I thought I would share some reasons why you should learn another language too.
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Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2015
Each language offers a unique way of viewing and understanding the world. When people view things differently they also talk about things differently. Learning another language will help you see the differences and similarities in how people from different countries and cultures perceive the world.
This is pretty obvious but whether you’re travelling or have loved ones who’s first language is different than yours it will help you to better communicate with them. That is of course assuming that you decide to learn their native language. Not only that but learning a foreign language will also help you to communicate better in your first language.
Nelson Mandela once said, “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.”
Malinalco, Mexico, 2017
Just like you need to exercise your body you also need to exercise your brain. This will make you smarter and help your brain to stay young and healthy. Learning languages will help prevent your brain against aging, help you be more perceptive, aid your memory, and help increase your decision making skills. To learn more about how language learning keeps the brain healthy you can read this article.
This is because when you learn a new way of speaking you also are learning a new way of thinking. This will make it easier for you to put yourself in other people’s shoes and help you become more empathetic. Let’s be real here, the world needs more empathetic people.
When you can list on your resume that you speak a second or even a third language you will likely be rewarded for that. Nowadays more and more companies consider being bilingual a huge asset as travelling and immigrating is becoming so popular. You need to be able to understand your clients and speaking a second language means you could gain clients that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
If you’re about to travel somewhere that doesn’t speak the same language as you then it’s usually good to learn a few key phrases before you go. However really taking the time to learn a language before you go will make everything easier for you. It will be easier to order food in a restaurant or ask for directions. It will also make it easier to make friends.
Not only will travel be easier for you but it will be more fun as well! Now you will be able to really connect with locals and build long lasting friendships. You will be able to understand the country similarly to the way locals understand their country. There are so many wonderful people out there who will be thrilled to hear you speak their language and you will be able to really connect with and learn from them.
You will become a more confident person by learning a foreign language. This is because you will be tackling the fear of messing up or saying something absurd. When you really dive in to learn a new language you need to know that you will make mistakes.
When I was first immersed in Spanish living in Chile I spent a day horseback riding through the Andes. I was living with a Chilean family and when I came home they asked me what I did that day. Trying my best to say everything correctly I confidently told them that I had been riding gentlemen all day. This is because the word for horse (caballo) is very similar to the word for gentlemen (caballero). I’ve never seen a family laugh so hard.
You may get embarrassed as you first start making mistakes but soon you will learn to laugh off all the slip ups. In doing this you will become a more confident speaker and person.
Kayaking in my hometown of Kelowna, BC, Canada
By learning a foreign language you will be offered a unique perspective into your own culture. This is because when you realize the different ways in which other people speak and think you will compare them to the ways you are used to speaking and thinking. You will therefore have a new outside perspective into your own language and culture. This will deepen the understanding not only of your culture but of yourself.
Now when you sit down to write, paint, play an instrument etc. you will be able to think about everything in two languages. This means you will likely have more ideas or be able to think about the same thing in two different ways. This will show in your art and likely in your work as well.
Just like I mentioned above, learning another language will allow you to think about things in two different ways. This will likely make you a better problem solver and could come in handy at work, around the house, or while travelling.
Who doesn’t want more friends?! Learning another language will help you make friends in different countries or help deepen the friendships you have with people from other cultural backgrounds. Even if you have learnt a language that your friends don’t speak you will still have opened your mind to how difficult it can be to speak another language all the time. You will likely become more patient with your friends who constantly speak in their second languages to communicate with you. This will help strengthen your relationships with them as well.
This is specifically referring to written and spoken art like books, poetry, and music. After learning a foreign language you will be able to understand and appreciate books, poetry, and music in their original language. You will basically double your art appreciation capacity and probably double your library as well.
Chang Mai, Thailand
For me learning Spanish was easier than learning French. Being Canadian I had to start learning French at a young age and I took classes right into university. Learning French was pretty hard because I never really immersed myself in it. Spanish was so much easier because I was able to figure out ways in which I learned better and apply them to learning Spanish. With each language you learn you also understand language patterns a bit better so the next language will come more easily to you.
Arturo and I in Desierto de Los Leones, Mexico, 2017
Woah what?! That’s right folks. I saved the best for last here. Learning another language may help you to fall in love. It’s simple math really. By learning another language you are basically doubling the size of your dating pool. To be honest knowing Spanish really helped me to connect with my boyfriend. We met at school and I asked him where he was from. When he said Mexico I used it as an excuse to ask him if he could help me practice Spanish since I was learning it then. He said yes and the rest is history! Not only that but being able to speak both in English and Spanish together means we have two different ways of understanding each other. So if I don’t understand something he says in Spanish we just switch to English and vice versa.
Well there you have it. You now have fifteen extra reasons to learn a foreign language. The only thing you have to do now is decide which one to learn.
April is the founder and main author for Just Leaving Footprints. She has written for numerous blogs and publications such as Explore Magazine and Snow Pak. April loves writing about sustainable tourism, and promoting other sustainable travelers on her Facebook Group and Instagram Community, Ladies for Sustainable Travel. Currently, April is living and teaching English in Mexico City with her husband Arturo and they don’t plan on stopping their travels anytime soon.
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