Maybe you’re learning a new language to be able to take an exotic family vacation and communicate with your hosts and tour guides. Maybe it’s to impress your boss, get a promotion or transfer abroad, or otherwise advance your career. Or maybe you don’t have a choice, and have to study a foreign language for your degree 😉
Whatever your motivation for picking up Arabic, Swedish, or Japanese, there are undeniable and long-lasting benefits to language learning. These benefits range from abstract cognitive abilities to concrete applications.
Without further ado, and in no particular order, language learning will make you a…
This is a given. Not only will you be able to connect with more people, but your communication skills will improve as you practice.
The University of Chicago conducted a study about how exposure to language affects children’s communication skills: “Children in multilingual environments have extensive social practice in monitoring who speaks what to whom, and observing the social patterns and allegiances that are formed based on language usage,” said professor Katherine Kinzler. “These early socio-linguistic experiences could hone children’s skills at taking other people’s perspectives and provide them tools for effective communication.”
You will also be a better communicator when speaking to people whose native language is not English. You will understand how to reformulate your thoughts when the other person doesn’t understand, instead of repeating the same sentence multiple times.
Your empathy for people who are communicating with you in a language that is not their own will make them feel at ease and more likely to open up to you 🤝
This one has statistical evidence to back it up. The American Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment in the fields of interpreting and translation will grow 29% from 2014 to 2024 (compared to a 7% national average).
Even if you don’t want use your language skills to translate, your job prospects as a multilingual candidate are good. Speaking more than one language, even at just a high school level, can never hurt your chances of being hired 😎 Foreign languages will make your résumé interesting and valuable, and you can easily market your skills during an interview.
Some industries that have a particularly high need for multilingual employees include health care, law, hospitality, and technology. You could even explore options for working abroad – check out these tips if you’re interested.
Another bonus: once you land the job, you might even make more money than your monolingual coworkers. Annual household income is $10,000 💸 higher in families who have at least one bilingual partner, Rosetta Stone researchers claim.
Learning a new language is, in itself, solving a big problem. You start with scattered pieces – grammatical rules, vocab words, parts of speech – and little by little you have to figure out how they fit together to create something that is understood by others. People who speak more than one language often have a higher capacity for problem-solving and critical thinking 🤓
If you don’t know the word for something you need, like a fork or a bathroom, chances are you won’t simply go without. You’ll find another way to communicate your need. This is problem-solving!
Even toddlers can benefit from language learning when it comes to finding creative solutions, though they might not speak in full sentences yet! A study at Concordia University found that children who grew up with bilingual parents were better able to perform shape conflict and reverse categorisation tasks, when compared to their monolingual peers.
When learning a language, we develop skills that make us more observant in order to understand when we are spoken to. Because we don’t pick up every word the person says, we are more attentive to nonverbal cues like body language, gestures 👋, posture, and verbal indicators like tone of voice.
We also have to be perceptive when listening to or reading a new language in order to recognise and store in our memory vocabulary words or sentence structures that might be useful in future situations. These observation skills you will cultivate during the language learning process carry over into other aspects of our lives.
Not only will you ace your language classes, but if you have an interest in language learning you may actually do better in other subjects, too.
Numerous studies have shown that bilingualism is directly related to high cognitive performance. In other words, language learning is a great workout for your brain!
People who speak more than one language are more likely to have better focus and longer attention spans, a major plus for students who need to concentrate in class or when studying for a test ✍️ Speaking of tests, multilingual children and adults also memorise information more easily, probably due to the brain power it takes to absorb lots of new vocabulary and the skills they develop for doing so.
Language learning can even help you get higher scores on standardised tests 🙌
The College Board reported that participants who had at least four years of language study scored higher on the verbal and math sections of the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) than their peers.
Paris is infamous for its bad service and standoffishness towards tourists. But maybe we are just being bad tourists… Put yourself in the locals’ shoes; language barriers can cause immense frustration, which might come off as rudeness.
You’ll find that showing an effort, in any city, even if you only know how to say “please” and “thank you”, makes a big difference in the way that you are received by natives.
If you focus your studies on travel-specific vocabulary and anticipate what words and phrases might be useful, you will also be able to appreciate more of the country’s authentic culture 🌏 You won’t be confined to attractions that are Anglo-friendly (e.g. English tours, audio guides), and you won’t be tempted to order Americanised dishes from restaurants simply because they are the only words on the menu that you understand.
Speaking the language of the country you are visiting also lowers your risk of becoming a clear target for pickpockets☝️
This one is tied in with being a better problem-solver. When we are forced to find inventive solutions to problems we encounter in language learning and life in general, we exercise our brain’s creative potential 🎨 If kept in shape, this muscle (which unfortunately tends to shrink with age) is a great tool.
We’re using “artist” in a loose sense here – creativity can make us better improv actors, painters, architects, guitarists, and authors, but also better physicists, lawyers, and baseball players!
Some famous multilingual film and music artists include Shakira, who speaks an impressive five languages 😳, Gwyneth Paltrow, who is raising her children in a bilingual household, and Natalie Portman, who can communicate in multiple languages including Hebrew and Japanese.
Better global citizen
Learning a new language often prompts an interest in the countries where the language is spoken. You will be more connected to global news if you can even read (or skim) in the language you are learning, and will have more unbiased sources to inform yourself with 📺. This is important, because you will more easily relate to people who share your language, and become conscious of how your actions can have international consequences.
It really goes beyond simple communication. Learning languages is the first step to gaining new perspective – opening a window of sorts – of other world views and cultures.
If you need to be able to juggle tasks for work, or keep an eye on three or four of your kids at a time, think about picking up a new language; language learning is great for multitasking skills! Especially targeted at children 👶 who learn more than one language, but applicable to any multilingual individuals, this one makes a lot of sense.
Your brain has to get used to judging a situation and switching gears quickly as soon as you enter a language class or a bilingual household.
A study by cognitive neuroscientist Ellen Bialystok measured this using a driving simulator and cell phones📱 She tested people who spoke only one language and people who spoke two or more. The multilinguals’ driving was less affected when simultaneously performing other tasks, like talking on their cell phone, than the monolingual drivers (even if you speak ten languages, don’t try this at home!)
The old myth that raising children to be bilingual had negative effects on their development has been completely debunked. In reality, parents who speak more than one language have the opportunity to give an incredible gift to their children 🙏 Make the learning process fun and interactive for your children, and they might get hooked on language.
Kids who grow up in a multilingual household develop a special identity and can find self-confidence when they realise that not everyone has the special language skills they do.
Children who are exposed to languages early are also often more accepting of other cultures and people who are different from themselves.
Kids who begin the language learning process at a young age will have more time to foster the skills and reap all of the benefits we’ve already mentioned (and more).
Better native speaker of your own language
While it may seem counterintuitive, learning a second (or third, fourth, fifth…) language can actually make you better at your first language.
We generally learn our first language through immersion and passive learning: by hearing it spoken by our parents 👂, seeing it all around us, and eventually just soaking it up. Even in school we spend very little time addressing the grammar structures of our native language, and I know plenty of people who still spell “weird,” “wierd” 😆
When you start learning a second language, most methods introduce at least a little grammar, so that you know when and how to use each tense, etc. As you learn the importance of grammar and spelling in a foreign language, it can translate back to your native language when you start comparing the two.
This can also make you a better language learner in general, since you develop learning strategies that work for you individually and understand the time and effort that it requires.
As you work on your language skills, try to look for progress you are making in other aspects of your life as a result. And of course, all of these qualities that you will acquire or improve thanks to your language learning will make you a better person in general! 😁
Author’s bio: Abigail Kaplan is a writer for MosaLingua, a provider of mobile and web apps to learn languages the smart way. Check out their newly released online platform here.