In countries where English is the first language (United States, United Kingdom, Australia..), people tend to speak just one language. That’s a lot of monoglots. And it comes as no surprise, especially with English being the world lingua franca of international business, science and technology, diplomacy, education and entertainment. There are many reasons for the “special status” of English in world affairs and day-to-day life. Remember the British Empire? The Empire on which the sun never sets was followed by the emergence of the United States post-war. The rest, as we say, is history.. Of course there are other reasons, such as technological dominance, or the cultural factor, but this is beyond the confines of this article. So why not branch out from English and learn a new language. Only knowing one language may seem comfortable, but the easy option isn’t necessarily the best way.
There are some quite compelling reasons to learn a foreign language.
NOT “THE WHOLE WORLD”
While English is spoken by a lot of people around the world (approximately 1.3 billion, from Canada to South Africa to New Zealand to Ghana, Ireland, Nigeria etc..), that’s still only about a sixth of the global population. Do you still think English makes you a truly global citizen?
In Europe, most people understand and speak at least some English. This is especially true for the younger generations. If you want to communicate with European seniors, however, you may need to learn at least the basics of their language. This also differs from country to country; Southern and Eastern Europe are less English-friendly than countries in Northern and Western Europe, such as Germany, Sweden, Norway, etc. French people might understand a good ton of English, but do you really want to be that person who uses English to ask for help finding your hotel from a proud Frenchman on a rainy Parisian afternoon? Not my cup of tea!
In other parts of the world, you may be in more trouble. South America, Africa, and Asia are regions characterized by relatively low levels of English proficiency. While you (probably) won’t have any major problems at international airports, hotels, and tourist facilities, still, if you step out into the “real world”, you might be in for a rude awakening. For example, if you go to a flea market in a rural town in Bolivia, English won’t do you much good.
If you want to genuinely connect and communicate with people from around the world, you should really think about learning at least some basic phrases in their native tongue. Not only will it make communication easier, but it will also show that you respect local culture and appreciate tradition, culture, and history!
IT’S SIMPLE! LEARN!
You don’t need much to learn a new language. Surprising though it may be, all you need is your phone! With technological progress making real strides, everything you need is at your fingertips. Some apps, such as Duolingo and Rosetta Stone, can directly teach you a language; some offer accurate and natural translations for free; finally, there are apps like iTalki that let you connect with people from all around the globe and have them teach you. This is of course much more convenient than having to deal with textbooks, which tend to be outdated, boring, and may not be your preferred method of learning.
What’s more, you also have a lot more resources available to you than was available in the past. Streaming services such as Netflix and HBO GO offer TV shows and movies in more than 60 languages. There is also a ton of free content on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, etc. The world is indeed your oyster!
Learning languages online, and particularly via language apps, is the future. All you need is an internet connection, but that’s not a problem if you’re already here right now.
IT’S GOOD FOR YOUR BRAIN
Science shows that learning a new language improves your mental aptitude. Learning a foreign language means learning a lot and I mean a LOT of new words. This is very good for your memory, and it will benefit you in more ways than you can count. Your brain works like a muscle; the more you use it, the more it develops. And what better way to use your brain than to learn a new language?
It has been shown that picking up a new language may also prevent dementia and other brain disorders. In other words, it can tangibly prolong your life. The longer you live, the more languages you can learn! Check out our article about free time here.
Moreover, learning a new language can often mean getting an entirely new personality. Many people (I’m one of them) insist that their personality changes depending on which language they are speaking. For example, if you are an introvert, you may find that you are much more outgoing in your target language. A curmudgeon in English but a fun person in French, Oh là là ! By learning a new language you may discover things about yourself that you never knew before.
IT PAYS OFF
Learning some languages can be very profitable, especially if you’re looking for a career in international business. Mandarin, German, French are just some examples of languages that can return a good bang for your buck- could be your niche skill to help you land your dream job too.
Many employers are willing to overlook a lack of experience in the field if you simply speak a language that is in high demand. It’s much easier for a company to teach you their craft than to teach you a language from scratch!
Of course, there are also careers more closely connected with languages. If you reach a certain level of proficiency, you can become a certified language teacher or a translator. You might earn a lot of money depending on what language you choose to pursue as well as the associated job opportunities.
NEW LANGUAGE IS FUN!
This is really the most important reason to learn a new language; it’s simply a lot of fun. If it stimulates you and gives you that kick of adrenaline, then your journey is one worth embracing. At times the process may be tedious, the path not so rosy; still, when you realize that you’re getting better at communicating with native people, you will feel a great sense of achievement. And that alone will spur you to keep going.
Once you get the hang of the language, you will feel like you have a secret superpower. You can gloat about it with friends; by all means feel free to show off your language skills!
You don’t necessarily have to be pragmatic with your language learning. You also don’t have to learn the most popular languages if you don’t feel like it. If you simply enjoy the process, you can treat it like a hobby and you can try learning any language that seems fun to you. Uzbek, Serbian, Burmese, or sign language; you name it!
You can also connect with other language enthusiasts and share your experience with them. They may give you tips or suggestions to boost your language learning. It can be a good way to bond with like-minded people. And that’s what it’s all about: people communicating better, the world needs more of that.