Learning to speak a foreign language is often times considered a necessity of successfully integrating and functioning in a particular community. Communicating effectively helps you to get the most out of your foreign experience. Imagine being lost in a country where you don’t speak the language and the locals don’t speak yours. You have to retort to signing, pointing and google translate. The need for communication is essential and quite evident in these kinds of scenarios. The same can be said for someone who has moved to a different country for a new job, vacationing in a foreign country or an English teacher teaching abroad. In all these cases knowing the foreign language would prove to be quite useful in day to day life. There are a number of benefits attached to learning a foreign language, here are just a few of them.
1. Learning a foreign language accelerates brain power
Speaking a language helps you to access multiple areas of your brain, this is because each language requires differing skills with regards to pronunciation, etymology, structural rules and varying degrees of complexities. It therefore makes sense that the more languages you speak the more brain power you exude. Think of a foreign language as a gym session for your brain. The result? Quicker and clearer processing of information, enhanced reading techniques, and accelerated problem-solving skills.
2. It helps your brain develop how to multitask
Have you ever watched someone switch between two or more languages? It is something quite awe-inspiring. It could be equated to watching a juggler juggling a bunch of clubs with intense precision, switching back and forth between languages creates the same effect. Your brain is essentially tapping into each language’s specific mechanics, simultaneously. Your brain is exercising and stretching its multitasking abilities, therefore speaking a foreign language could help you increase your ability to switch back and forth between various daily activities with ease.
3. The onset of Dementia and Alzheimer’s is stalled
Studies that focus on the onset of Alzheimer’s found that the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s amongst multilingual individuals was delayed. According to the study, Alzheimer’s symptoms only start developing at the age of 75 or more amongst those who were multilingual compared to the age of 71 or less for those who only spoke one language. This outcome was concluded considering that all other factors were held equal. This means factors such as overall health, diet, economic status, and education level weren’t considered.
4. It improves memory and retention
Learning a new language requires you to retain a great amount of new information. This includes an excess amount of vocabulary, structural rules and pronunciation requirements. Not only are you learning and memorising all these new concepts you are also making your brain use them as a communication tool. As such, learning a foreign language essentially strengthens your brain’s memory as it forces it to recall newly learned information, the brain is then required to associate this information with mnemonics resulting in better retention.
5. Gives the mind a slight information processing edge
Learning a new language can prove to be a rather challenging task. This is because languages tend to be linked to more than just learning vocabulary but also have historic and cultural links to their country of origin. This makes learning a new language quite difficult and challenging and as such requiring strong will, discipline and focus, ultimately building critical thinking skills.
6. Improves decision making abilities
When you learn a foreign language not only are you learning new vocabulary you are also learning idioms and phrases that are nuanced and specific to that language. This means learning a new language is not simply about knowing vocabulary but also knowing how appropriate and relevant the words you have learned are in a social construct. Multilingual people not only have to weed through different languages in their minds, they have to decide which words to use appropriately in any given conversation. This requires critical-thinking, decision making skills and on the spot problem-solving.
7. Improves ability to speak first language
One of the tools used for learning a new language is translating words back to the learner’s home language or first language. This means that the foreign language is first introduced through the lens of your home language, as a result you are forced to expand your own home language skills. It also means you might need to search for the appropriate home language words to accurately translate the foreign words you are learning.
8. Enhances performance in various academic areas
Knowing a foreign language while tackling academics could prove to be quite a magic trick to pull out of the hat. As already stated, learning a foreign language requires intense focus and self-discipline. This means when it comes to studying techniques such as cramming and memorization your brain has already been basted. You have exercised brain muscles that monolinguals haven’t even accessed yet. This will of course translate to test and exam scores that have been affected by your brain’s ability to study and retain information. Learning a foreign language also helps you to improve your comprehension abilities as your brain has to not only learn new words but also understand them. As such, studying and comprehending what you have studied becomes a lot easier. As a result reading and understanding exam vocabulary becomes easier and correcting written work such as essays requires less effort.
9. Allows individuals to be more open and receptive of other people’s cultures
As previously mentioned learning a foreign language requires you to somewhat understand the history and culture of the language’s origins. This means delving head first into the language’s associated culture; including foods, political associations, music, dance, and history. In order to successfully immerse yourself; you will need to have an open mind and receptive energy. This allows you to be appreciative of differences and less fearful of learning how different people do things.
10. Speaking a foreign language opens up various career opportunities
Well this one makes total sense, earlier we mentioned moving to a foreign country for a new job. Even though you don’t need to speak a country’s language to get the opportunity to work there, knowing the language certainly gives you an advantageous edge. Corporates want to know that you will do well in your role before hiring you, knowing the language strongly signals that you would be in the best position to perform your role well.
11. Builds self confidence
Successfully mastering a concept that is foreign and completely new to you is reason enough to feel extremely accomplished within your own abilities. Learning a new language helps you prove to yourself that you have enough self-discipline, perseverance and strong-will to produce results, which is certainly a confidence booster. Every time you are able to flex your language skills you are essentially injecting a new dose of confidence into your life.
12. It helps in self-discovery and self-actualization
Proving to yourself that you are completely capable of achieving something that you put your mind to helps you come to terms with yourself and all your capabilities. As you dive into all the intricacies and complexities that go with learning a foreign language you get to know yourself a little more, and finally having a full conversation in that language allows you to reach a state of self-actualization.
13. It opens doors to different forms of expression
This benefit is especially perfect for those who express themselves in some form of artistic expression. Whether this is poetry, music, writing or singing, learning a new language gives you a new form of self-expression. You allow your brain to tap into a new artistic wave length where you can produce your art in a different and new way.
14. Expands your potential pool of dating candidates
A language barrier is absolutely not a sufficient reason to eliminate a potential dating candidate as history proves that people from different backgrounds and languages can successfully fall in love and live happy lives. However, knowing your potential love interest’s language promises a much smoother romantic interaction.
15. Allows you to successfully integrate yourself into a different culture
Moving locations and starting over is certainly not an easy feat, in fact it is one of the most difficult things one might ever have to do. Knowing the foreign language of the country you will be calling your new home will make this transition much easier. You won’t struggle with basic things such as asking for direction or reading road signs. The challenges of moving won’t disappear but they certainly won’t feel all encompassing.