Foreign Languages

17 Reasons to Learn a Foreign Language

Foreign language quote

Mastering a second or third language can feel hopelessly, frustratingly difficult.  Memorizing thousands of vocabulary words and suffering through humiliating conversations where you feel like an idiot because you can’t put a simple sentence together ain’t easy. But if you’re strong enough to power through the discouragement and embarrassment, you’ll find it’s worth it in the end. The following are some reasons why you shouldn’t give up.

1. Learning a foreign will make you smarter

Seriously. Research has shown that studying another language improves cognitive ability and keeps your brain sharp as you age.

2. You’ll become better at multi-tasking

According to a study from the Pennsylvania State University, people who are multilingual are better multi-taskers. This is because the ability to stay focused while processing several thoughts at once is necessary when you’re switching back and forth between two or more languages. Bilingual children are especially good at this.

3. A foreign language will open you up to a whole new world of music, movies and literature

English-language films and music represent just a small percentage of the truly awesome art out there. Roughly 350 million people speak English as their first language, and while this may seem like a lot, that number represents just five percent of the total world population.

4. It will make you sexier

People who speak a second language are seen as educated, intelligent, cultured and worldly. And what’s not sexy about that?

5. Watching hours of trashy foreign-language TV will become an acceptable way to pass an afternoon because it’s “studying”

The TV show “Friends” becomes new again when you’re watching it French, Spanish or German.

6. Learning a foreign language may help you fight dementia

Studies have found that on average, dementia begins to set in for monolingual adults at 71.4. For multi-linguals, however, the effects of old age don’t begin to show until later – at the median age of 75.5.

7. Studying a foreign language will improve your memory

Studies show that bilinguals are better at remembering names, grocery lists and directions. Why?  Your brain is like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it gets –  and studying a foreign language forces you to strengthen your brain muscle by memorizing verb conjugations, vocabulary lists and grammar rules.

8. Mastering another language will help you understand another a culture more fully

9. You’ll become more comfortable with making a fool out of yourself

Nothing is more embarrassing than trying to stutter your way through a conversation in a language you’ve only just begun to study. It’s a humiliating experience – yet humbling, too. Being able to laugh at yourself and not take yourself seriously is a great skill to have.

10. You’ll feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment

Mastering a foreign language is really difficult! On average, retaining fluency in a second language will take you between 600 and 2,200 hours of study, depending on the relative difficulty of the language. If you’re able to stick with it and become fluent, you’ll feel an enormous sense self pride and accomplishment.

11. You’ll become more perceptive

Fictional detective Sherlock Holmes was a talented polygot, which makes sense when you consider that  a study from Spain’s University of Pompeu Fabra found that people who speak more than one language are skilled observers. The study showed that multi-linguals notice things many people miss and are good at sorting important details from the irrelevant.

12. Speaking the local language will make it easier to travel abroad

13. You’ll become a better decision maker

study at the University of Chicago found that bilinguals are skilled at removing emotion out of an equation and making decisions in an objective and rational manner.

14. You’ll be able to impress strangers at parties

“Really? You speak Mongolian?!” “How do you say (insert random curse word) in Japanese?”

15. You’ll begin to view the world differently

Learning a new language can change the way you see the world. One study found that bilinguals who spoke both Japanese and English were more sensitive to color differences and perceived colors in different ways than those only fluent in one language.

16. A foreign language looks great on a resume or college application

17. You’ll become a better writer

It may seem strange, but learning a foreign language will actually make you better at your own mother language. Studying in detail the mechanics (grammar and sentence structure) of another language will make you more sensitive to the workings of your own. You’ll become a better writer because of it.

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5 thoughts on “17 Reasons to Learn a Foreign Language

  1. Studying a foreign language opens up lots of opportunities, business ones too. Always great thing to do. Just don’t try to study too many at once, you’ll get confused ;-0. So what are you studying?

  2. @Anwar – Yeah, I get all of my languages confused all of the time! It’s actually kind of embarrassing. Right now I’m studying German and when I try to speak German, sometimes Spanish pops out by mistake.

    But oh, well. I’ll get it straight one day…What languages do you speak?

  3. Great post Reannon. We think it is so important to try and learn the language of the country you visit, even if it is difficult and you do make a fool of yourself. It always works in your favour and people appreciate you trying. You feel great when you have that first conversation and you understand them and they understand you. Like you said above it opens so many doors. We are travelling at the moment, so we can really relate to 8 and 12. We have been to Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia in the last 7 months so lots of different languages have been spoken (some not well). We are riding motorbikes at the moment and have been stuck in small towns where there is no English at all. By us trying to speak their language we have been invited in to their homes to sleep or for meals or sometimes they just want to show us around. We have had some magnificent experience and made a lot of knew friends. We have even got local prices, not tourist prices, sometimes just knowing the language. But you need to practise or you will lose it. That is our problem. 🙂

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