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The Benefits of Learning English as a Second Language

English is practically everywhere. It’s the official language in over 67 countries, and an additional 55 speak it as their official second language. It’s in books, films, and TV, not to mention on signage around the world. It’s the language of businessmen and academics. Even non-English media usually comes bundled with English subtitles or translations. Indeed, English is now so prevalent that it’s officially taken Mandarin’s spot as the most spoken language in the world. 


Given this, it’s no wonder that so many people who don’t already speak English wish to learn it as a second language. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it opens up much of the world, and all kinds of opportunities. 


If you know someone who’s thinking about learning English, or who may be a non-native speaker intending to teach others the language, you might be looking for ways to encourage them to become fluent. In this effort, being able to articulate the specific benefits of learning English as a second language can help a great deal. We dive into some of those benefits below. 


It’s easy to find resources


Since English is practically everywhere, it’s easy to find cheap or even free resources for learning. Many schools offer English language classes, and there are also various websites — like those belonging to the BBC and the British Council — that offer lessons for those who wish to learn remotely. 


Learners can also supplement their lessons with the staggering amount of English media available. Books, shows, and films can all help learners grasp cultural nuances and develop that intuition English grammar usually requires. 


This breadth of resources simply isn’t readily available for other languages one might try to pick up. 


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It’s beneficial for brain health

Learning English as a second language can strengthen one’s cognitive “muscles” and improve executive functions like attention and focus. Bilingualism in general also increases the amount of grey matter in the brain, which means more brain cells and a healthier brain overall. 

Recent studies from York University also show that bilingual individuals are less likely to develop neurodegenerative diseases like dementia. Given the complexity of English — the pronunciation of words like “though” and “through” alone can throw non-native speakers for a loop — these benefits may even be enhanced.

It’s a gateway to higher education

English is the language most commonly used by academics at universities, research institutions, and think tanks. If learners wish to participate in higher education, they’ll often have an easier time getting through admissions and classes if they’re fluent in English. This benefit was articulated nicely in posts from the Facebook page of Bridge International Academies, a community school network based in Kenya, Uganda, Andhra Pradesh, and Nigeria.

“As I landed in the US, I knew I had been given the opportunity of a lifetime,” Bridge Kenya alumna Natasha Wanjiru shared. “Back home, I had not only seen but also experienced, what it feels like not to go to school and feel trapped.”

It’s the language of professionals

As previously discussed by Lingualift contributor and author Angelo Castelda, English is the lingua franca of not only academia, but of business, as well. Consequently, learning English as a second language can result in both a better education and countless job opportunities upon graduation.

This is especially true today. The pandemic is pushing businesses to adopt remote and hybrid work models, with the result that large multinational companies no longer restrict recruitment to local job markets. Instead, they’re globalising their workforces and harnessing talent from around the world. Becoming fluent in English will only help second-language learners gain a competitive edge when applying for well-paying jobs.

For non-native speakers, achieving fluency in English can be a long and arduous journey. But with all the benefits it offers, the end result is sure to be rewarding.

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