10. Impress people around you
Whether at a fancy restaurant with your date ordering dishes like Boeuf Bourguignon using correct pronunciation, or talking with the locals in their native tongue, learning a foreign language is bound to impress more than a few people around you. You will likely get plenty of compliments on your unique skill, and a few curious glances from passersby here and then.
Of course, impressing people should not be the reason why you choose to learn a foreign language (if it is, your motivation is likely to falter before you reach any respectable level of fluency), but it’s a nice offshoot of the process itself.
9. Develop confidence
Learning a foreign language is an incredibly rewarding experience and a serious confidence booster. You’ll get to overcome some of your fears and doubts, learn more about yourself, meet new people, and perhaps travel to places you would’ve never dared to visit before. Plus, the constant positive feedback from native speakers and their encouragement is always a motivation and ego booster.
8. Improve your decision making skills
A study from the University of Chicago found that when people speak in a language other than their native tongue, it helps eliminate their tendency toward so-called loss aversion—that is, getting too caught up in the “here and now” to make choices that could profit us further down the road.
Bilinguals are more confident with their choices after thinking it over in the second language and seeing whether their initial conclusions still stand up. This means that if you learn a second language, this might well improve your ability to make wiser financial choices, for example. Who would’ve thought?
7. Increase your brain power
Just as if making better decisions wasn’t enough, a psychologist at York University in Toronto, Ellen Bialystok, has found that students who study foreign languages tend to score better on standardized tests than their monolingual peers, particularly in the categories of math, reading, and vocabulary.
Additionally, a study conducted around a similar time by Researchers from University College London has shown that learning other languages altered grey matter – the area of the brain which processes information – in the same way exercise builds muscles.
6. Completely transform your travel experience
Travel is not just about taking pretty pictures and posting them on Facebook or Instagram, or spending a week in a 5-star all-inclusive resort. Learning a foreign language, even as little as a handful of phrases, will make your travel experiences so much better, and I speak from experience when I say this. Not only will the knowledge of the language the locals speak result in warm smiles and invitations for drinks, it might bring you opportunities that you’d never thought could befall you. Best of all, it will enrich your life by offering you a deeper understanding of the culture and history of the people you’ll encounter. Read this guest post I wrote not too long ago on Inspiring Travellers for a convincing outline of how languages can transform your travel experiences.
5. Improve your employability
We live in an increasingly globalized world and companies are constantly expanding overseas and dealing with clients from all over the world. Between two candidates with the exact same skill set and experience, the person who is bilingual is arguably much more likely to get the job.
The Economist also points outs that while, according to one optimistic estimate, half the world’s people might speak English by 2050, “that still leaves billions who will not, and billions of others who remain happier (and more willing to spend money) in their own language,” the article concludes. Plus, studies show that knowledge of a foreign language brings economic benefits. Even a 2% annual “salary premium” will result, in some cases, in 6-digits returns upon retirement. Not a bad deal when compounded will all of the other benefits outlined in this post.
4. Study or live overseas
If you feel like you’re in for some change and you’re looking for some excitement and adventure in your life, a foreign language might just be the door that’s waiting to be opened. Why not leave for a few years and study in East Asia? Or perhaps find your dream job in Germany? Whatever it is that you want, knowing a second language will suddenly shrink the world and bring you opportunities of a lifetime. Are you getting itchy feet yet?
3. Become more open-minded
As Karen Risager has underlined in her amazing book “Language and Culture: Global Flows and Local Complexity,” in recent years there has been “intensified research into how cultural differences express themselves and are created via various forms of linguistic practice and discourse, how culturally different conceptual systems and world views are contained in the semantic and pragmatic systems of the various languages, and how language development and socialization contribute to the development of cultural identities and cultural models of the world.”
Learning a foreign language and getting soaked into an entirely new culture and world view is the surest way to become an open-minded, understanding individual, and that is, I would argue, absolutely priceless. Once you are aware of the fact that we are all cultural beings, products of our own environments, and that you recognize the cultural base for your own attitudes and behavior, you are ready to consider others in a more favorable light. Seeing the world from a different perspective, and understanding where you and others come from, is a fantastic, eye-opening experience.
2. Discover a new culture
Music, movies, food, literature, poetry, theatre, fine arts: the list of fabulous things that culture brings to our lives is endless. You might have heard that language and culture are two sides of the same coin: I would tend to agree with this.
One of my personal favorites, discovering a new culture is an immensely enriching experience intricately tied to the knowledge of a foreign language. Of course, you can learn a particular geography’s culture without knowing the language, but as one of my readers once remarked, that’s kind of like watching a video of a live show. You get to see the show, understand the plot, etc., but you miss out on the buzz and the real feeling of being in the audience in the theatre. You can learn a lot about a culture, but you can’t feel it fully without throwing yourself in, and that begins with the language.
1. Meet new people and develop life-long friendships
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, meeting new and interesting people and developing life-long friendships (or, who knows, even the love of your life!) are certainly objectives well worth aspiring for, and learning another language is a sure way to expedite that process. Plus, learning a language is FUN!
Everybody has different reasons for learning a language (or not). But by now, I hope I’ve managed to convince at least some of you of the amazing rewards that learning another language can bring. Of course, it’s not an easy process, and it does take time and effort. But the investment is well worth it.
What do you think? What are some additional reasons you can think of to learn a foreign language? Keep the list going on in the comments section below, and share your thoughts with the rest of us!