Have you ever thought ‘Why learn a language? Everyone speaks English nowadays.’ Even when you ask the question in this way, you might feel like squirming a little in your chair. It sounds a bit arrogant, and if you work with people in other countries, it could appear a bit entitled. However, learning to speak French, Spanish, Chinese or all the others in the world is a commitment. It is fine to calculate if there are benefits of learning a language balanced against the time, effort and financial investment involved. Although online language courses make it simpler, there are still so many things to learn, and this might not offer you as much value.
Here we address the benefits of learning a language, helping you in your judication.
Powering our brain
Some studies suggest speaking two or more languages is an asset to our brain. It improves cognitive processing in the brain. The research indicates that the brain of someone bilingual operates differently to those who only speak a single language. These differences have many potential benefits. Understanding these benefits might invest in time and effort of discernible value.
It makes you smarter
Learning a foreign language is shown to improve the functionality of the brain. You challenge the brain to recognise and negotiate meaning. This not only allows you to communicate using a different language system but also helps to negotiate meaning in other problem-solving tasks too. Do you want some evidence? Well, look to the scores on standardised tests. Those who study a second language achieve better than those who speak a single language. They score better in not just reading and vocabulary but also maths, which requires similar processing capabilities.
You become a better multitasker
It makes sense that holding two languages in your mind, and switching between the words and constructions, requires you to do more than one thing at a time. You are not only switching between two systems of speech and writing, but also two structures of meaning. This juggling skill is the same one we use when we attempt to multitask. Here too, we are trying to hold two ideas in our minds at the same time – handling all the tasks even when one can distract the other. Linguists made fewer errors than monolinguists when driving and having someone actively trying to distract them.
You keep your brain healthy
Studies suggest that monolingual adults are more like to suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia than those who learn another language. The mean age for those single language speakers for developing dementia is 71.4; in dual languages, it is 75.5. By keeping your brain lively, you keep it healthier – like any part of our body – you need to use it lose it. You can get similar effects by regularly completing crosswords or playing chess.
You strengthen your memory
The same principle applies to your memory. Your brain, similar to a muscle, gets stronger with use. Therefore, the process of learning a language makes your mind much more robust. This means that remembering lists and sequences is easier for a dual linguist. Studies tested this out with the retention of shopping lists, names and directions.
Higher levels of perceptiveness
Although you might believe that learning a language is an auditory exercise, you also develop better observation skills. The focus on small details helps your mind focus in this way in life – making linguists an adept editor and scanner of relevant information.
Improved decision maker
The University of Chicago is confident that bilinguals are better at making rational decisions. They can hear the nuances and subtle suggestions in communication and therefore make a more informed choice. Therefore, those who have learnt many languages also ten to be more confident in the conclusions of their decisions.
Better your English speaking
It is not just an impact on your thinking skills that should be considered. Learning a foreign language requires that you learn how a language functionally works. You learn more about the grammar, conjugations and structure of sentences when learning a language. This, in turn, will help you see these same structures in English. You will become a sharper listening, both for meaning and implication. You will also be a better, more accurate writer and a better editor. Therefore, commitment to a second language could help you realise your hopes of being a writer.
It shows respect
If we stop a moment and consider others, we should also realise that speaking the language of the home country we are visiting is respectful. You should not expect others to adapt to you for you to survive in a different culture. Therefore, if you are looking to spend a lot of time in another country, you should be accountable for being able to communicate in this culture.
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