Saturday, 3 September 2016

Top 5 reasons to learn a language

September has arrived!  I cannot believe how fast this summer flew by.  However, I am so excited for my favourite season - fall!

September is a month of change.  It brings a new season, new fashion (yay!), and for many new learning opportunities as they begin another school year.

Even if you're not a full-time student, this is the time of year where new learning begins!  Full-time courses, part-time courses, on-line courses, you name it - the time is now.  Which is why I thought this would be the perfect time to let you know why it's important to learn a new language!

I often hear people say how they wish they knew another language, or I hear them wondering if they should be exposing their children to second language learning.  Learning another language is never a waste of time.  There are many benefits to second language learning, and I'm here to tell you five of them!

1. Cultured Individual

"A different language is a different vision of life." - Federico Fellini

Fellini couldn't have said it any better.  Knowing another language opens up another world - music, books, art, politics, food, the list goes on and on.  It helps you to see things from a native speaker's perspective.  Sure, you can always opt for google translate instead, but as a language teacher, I often stress that sometimes certain words just cannot be properly translated.  There doesn't exist a perfect translation in another language because that word or phrase embodies the culture to which it belongs.  Language and culture go hand in hand.  If you commit to learning a new language, you will inevitably learn where words come from and how they are used in a society, which will allow you to better understand the true ideas and meanings behind the words.

2. Travel

Knowing the language of the country you are visiting will no doubt make your travels easier.  Not only will you be able to navigate better, but knowing the native tongue will allow you to better connect to locals which can open up a world of opportunities.

I've always felt that knowing another language is having a pass into a secret society.  When you speak to individuals in their native tongue, you get to know them on a more personal level; there is a certain exchange of trust that occurs.  In my own travel experiences, specifically in Italy and France, I have often seen a distinct switch in the behaviour of native speakers when they realize that I can communicate in their mother tongue.  You can see in their eyes that I have changed from "just another tourist" to "one of them."  This look is usually followed by advice on the best places to go that only locals know about, or perhaps a drop in price of an item if I'm at a flea market trying to make a purchase.  And let's not forget the sweet satisfaction of those moments when locals ask, "Where are you from around here?" followed by a look of shock, mixed with respect, that I was able to fool them into thinking I was "one of their own." (hee hee!)

3. Employability

In our globalized world, languages are definitely valuable.  Yes, many around the world speak English, but many also do not, or may prefer to handle business in their native language.  Therefore, the more languages you know, the more attractive you will seem to potential employers.  Most individuals are more comfortable when conversing in their mother tongue, so if you have the possibility to speak to clients in their native language, you can be a cut above competition.

Aside from extra confidence and comfort, an article from The Economist points out that you can actually earn more for your extra language knowledge.  According to statistics, certain languages pay higher bonuses - so pick your courses well! (haha, just kidding!) 

4. Brain Health

There has been much research published on the brain benefits of second language learning, including that released in an article from The New York Times.  The article highlights the positive effects that second language learning has on the brain such as, improved cognitive skills and protection against dementia.  Further research, like a  University of Chicago study, proves that second language usage allows individuals to make decisions with less bias.

While it is recommended to learn languages at an early age, fortunately research reveals that these positive brain benefits can apply to late learners as well, through active use of the second language.

5. Meet new people

Just think, the more languages you know, the more cultures you can interact with!  That opens up a world of possibilities when trying to make new friends, meet new work clients, or find the love of your life.

Don't forget the fact that conversing to someone in their native tongue creates a whole new dimension in the relationship.  As Nelson Mandela famously said, "If you talk to a man in a language he understand, that goes to his head.  If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart."  


There are a variety of good reasons to learn a new language. I just barely scratched the surface here! The most important thing to remember is that you need to be patient when learning a new language. It takes time and practice.  It also takes passion!  Being truly engaged with a language and it's culture, will definitely aid in the learning process!  






 

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