Ten Amazing Reasons Why You Should Learn a Foreign Language

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

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, grammar, 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!

24 thoughts on “Ten Amazing Reasons Why You Should Learn a Foreign Language”

  1. #6 and #2 are the most interesting for me, as language helps you connect with people from other countries… (see also #1).

    Wanting to get to know and understand more about another culture is a great motivator to keep going. I like the analogy of watching a recording of a live show. Without language, it’s just not the same.

    1. Yes Ruth, these are also some of my favorite reasons! Discovering a new culture and truly getting to understand and “feel” it is a wonderful experience.

      By the way, how’s your Vietnamese going? Any plans to return to Vietnam this year? I’d love to go back there soon. I traveled from Saigon to Hanoi back in 2009 and absolutely loved it!

  2. Thanks for posting this! I just read your Three Golden Keys to Language Learning book and reading this is getting me pumped to start my Japanese studies!

    1. Awesome! How did you like the e-book? I’m glad it could motivate you to start learning Japanese, it looks like an incredibly interesting language (and culture) that I would love to learn in the future. Good luck, and let me know should you need any advice in the coming weeks/months/years 🙂

  3. Shuvanshu Jakhmola

    5th point is the one that interests me. I want to know do i need to do a certification course to prove my knowledge of the language to improve employability or i can learn the language on my own using free resources on internet too??

    1. You can learn the language to a point but you certainly won’t be able to speak it very well. There is no use really in learning the words of a language and not learning how to speak it properly.

      1. Shuvanshu Jakhmola

        Now if i want a proper course for learning a language(Spanish),Should i go for an online or an offline course?

        1. Duolingo is an excellent online resource, it really prepared me for living in Costa Rica as the phone app does exercises where you talk, read, write and translate but switches it up for you. It is not enough, though, you definitely need someone real to talk to as the best practice comes from having to come up with the right thing to say and understand real speech.

  4. LanguageLover

    I think that people learn languages because it is important that people can understand each other.

  5. Sometimes we couldnt get the very important points of art ,science ,philosophy pieces due to the translation mistakes or just because of the translation limitations.For example, in the movies ,subtitle mistakes cause so serious misunderstandings.

    1. Yes, I totally agree. Reading/watching material in its original language make an entire world of difference. A lot of subtleties cannot be translated with words, and often a good knowledge of the local culture is necessary in order to understand conversations, jokes, insinuations, etc.

  6. I’m going to post two quotes, the first is related to #3 and is attributed to Ludwig Wittgenstein: “Die Grenzen meiner Sprache bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt” (The limits of my language determine the limits of my world) and in today’s age of global citizenship, speaking more than one language ought to be a prerequisite. The other quote is attributed to Charlemagne: “To have a second language is to have a second soul”. By the way, I’ve just started my own website about language learning at http://bestwaystolearnlanguages.com and would like to partner with you if that’s ok. Cheers

  7. 10. No one is impressed by talking, talking is compulsory.
    9. The bad grades in my German class is making me lose confidence.
    8. I doubt staying up all night to study for German is a good decision.

    7. German is frickin giving me brain cancer.
    6. I live in Germany -_-
    5. Why would I need to learn German for a medical job in UK….?
    4. I said… I live in Germany -_-
    3. I’m being less open minded cause of da cancer
    2. I can learn a new culture without the help of language, thank you.
    1. wtf I can make life long friendships without German, it’s not like I’m some Germanphile.

  8. Hi! Thanks for posting this and it is a good tip for everyone to give more information. I think there are many ways to learn like we can practice with someone else with hearing, speaking and writing, etc. so that I can learn easily a new language how to speak it properly. Is it by learning we become more smarter than before? Thanks!

  9. Pingback: Ten Amazing Reasons Why You Should Learn a Fore...

  10. Ravi Jintendra Sanghvi

    languages are the most important things to lean as you can settle anywhere in the world without any worry.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *