Why are you learning a language?
Many people are instinctively attracted to learning a language. However, other people, are not. Many see language learning as an impossible mountain to climb. Worse still, some people don’t see the point. In secondary school, students may sometimes say that they don’t see the reason to study another language, as they have no intention of ever speaking it, or going abroad.
What can we say to that? Is the only reason to learn another language to be able to speak it with natives? I don’t think so.
It is the ultimate brain-training
Learning to speak a new language is like a puzzle with infinate combinations. From quite early on, learners will form short sentences, despite never having learned those specific sentences. This is an act of creativity and lateral thinking.
Studies have shown that language learning has a positive impact on general cognitive skills, even if learned in adulthood.
It is a transferable skill.
Imagine that you meet two people who have never played chess. They have no idea of the rules, or how the pieces can move. You quickly explain the rules to them, and then they play a game. One of them is a farm-worker, who didn’t finish secondary school. The other has a doctorate in neuroscience. Who do you think would be more likely to win?
The reason that we are more likely to expect the neuroscientist to win, is because we know about underlying transferable skills. Many of us can’t remember the algebra and trigonometry we studied in maths classes in secondary school, however, the fact that we developed those maths skills have probably helped us since then without us noticing. Learning languages will improve your ability to deal with many situations, in your first language, second language, or even in situations in which you don’t speak the language at all.
It builds empathy
Could learning a language actually make you nicer, kinder, or friendlier? Research suggests that this could be true!
One easily identifiable positive trait of people who know more than one language, is that they are more likely to be responsive and patient when communicating with people using a second language.
Another way in which empathy can be built by learning another language is by truly being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. There can be context and meaning lost when reading translations, or using a translator to speak to people.
It helps you to ‘think outside the box’.
Generating language is a creative process. We all use this creativity every day. Learning to do this in a foreign language is a great way to improve your creativity.
An increased ability to be creative can be the result of overcoming language structure boundaries, such as working out how to communicate a message. Furthermore, multilingual people people are more likely to completely restructure how they see a problem.
It develops social skills
Obviously, the best reason to learn another language, is to speak it! Traveling (or living) in another country is a completely different experience when you are able to fully engage with everyone around you. To understand the way that people think and feel, speaking their language is priceless.
On top of that, mastering a second language requires a well-trained ear. Your listening skills are improved throughout language learning. If there is one thing you can’t do too much of, it is listening!
Adapting to the future
We are living in a rapidly changing world. Whereas most people born in the last century had one job for life, this idea is becoming less common. During our lifetimes the workplace and our living spaces may change in ways we can’t currently see. Because of this, it is especially important to have the skills mentioned above; a highly trained brain, transferable logic, creativity, empathy, and a social personality.
What have you learnt from learning a new language? Can you think of other useful skills that you have acquired? What is most important to you? Let us know in the comments section below.
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