We live in a hyper-connected, fast-paced world, and things aren’t changing anytime soon.
How can you keep your head above water?
You need to be hyper-awesome to survive.
That means you’ll have to develop some special advantages to get a boost, help yourself stand out and make you better fit for survival in this crazy, modern world.
As our world becomes more and more connected through technological advances, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that learning another language is beneficial for many reasons.
Here we present just a few of the many positive side effects of becoming bilingual (or multilingual).
9 Advantages of Learning a Foreign Language (+ Resources!)
1. Meet new people
One of the most phenomenal benefits of learning a new language? Doors are opened to you around the world. If you’re learning in a group setting, you immediately have new friends to share your new language with. If not, then once you go somewhere and are actually able to employ what you’ve learned, you’ll be surprised how open people are when you speak their mother tongue.
2. Employers love it (and they’ll love you more)
If your C.V. accolades include fluency in a second language, your chances of employment in today’s economy are much greater for you than for those who speak only one language.
Multilingual people are able to communicate and interact within multiple communities. Potential employers consider this a valuable asset in an employee’s skill set, as they’re able to connect with a broader range of people. In this new age of start-ups, companies are increasingly breaking into new markets. You up your personal and professional value if you’re able to negotiate with manufacturers in another country or communicate with customers who don’t speak your native language.
Not to mention, your ability to speak a second language conveys that you’re motivated and driven to learn new skills, and this also gives you a competitive edge over those who haven’t yet become bilingual.
3. It’s becoming essential
Many would argue that bilingualism is becoming a progressively necessary and essential skill for anyone who wants to keep up with today’s rapidly increasing global economy. As more and more people recognize the importance of learning an additional language, those who only speak one language will begin to get left behind in our shift towards a more integrated and connected global society.
4. It’s great for traveling
Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein is credited with saying that “the limits of your language are the limits of your world,” and he was right.
Knowing more than one language opens up your vacation destination possibilities. Traveling through a foreign country becomes much easier if you can speak the language of that country. Fluency isn’t required. Locals anywhere appreciate that you’ve taken the time to at least attempt to learn and communicate in their tongue. It shows a greater level of respect and is an easy way to meet new people.
Also, getting to a comfortable speaking level in a foreign language is a great motivator to get you out there and practicing your new language in a new country.
5. After learning one, it’s 1000x easier to learn another
As you begin to learn a second language, you’ll find that the acquisition techniques you’re using can be applied to learning additional languages as well.
The positive cognitive effects of learning to speak a second language can train the brain to analyze and process different linguistic structures. It’s not specific to your first target language — it’s a skill that can be applied to learning any language.
You’re increasing your ability to replicate the process with multiple languages. This is called “metalinguistic awareness,” where your brain learns to identify the techniques of learning a language and break them down into a series of steps. After learning one language, you retain the muscle memory. Your brain will intrinsically understand how to learn a language and how different languages are structured, through increased awareness of syntax, grammar and sentence structure.
6. You become smarter
Acquiring a second language improves your memory and increases your attention span. The process of becoming bilingual exercises your brain, challenges you to concentrate and boosts your problem solving skills.
Bilingual students tend to score higher on standardized tests than monolingual students, especially in the areas of vocabulary, reading and math. As you learn to toggle from one language to another, you improve your multitasking abilities. Bilingual individuals have also been shown to be more logical and rational, have better decision-making skills and be more perceptive and aware of their surroundings.
Learning a second language also improves your native language, as it teaches you the mechanics and structure behind any language — not just new languages.
7. You’ll stay smarter for longer
Recent research has shown that bilingualism can stave off the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia by years. Regardless of their education level, gender or occupation, bilingual subjects in the linked study experienced the onset of Alzheimer’s, on average, 4 1/2 years later than monolingual subjects did.
Study results out of the American Academy of Neurology are showing that speaking more than one language increases the amount of neural pathways in the brain, allowing information to be processed through a greater variety of channels. They’ve also begun to demonstrate that multilingualism improves development in the brain’s areas of executive function and attention, no matter what age the language learner is.
8. It boosts your creativity
Researchers are also concluding that multilingual speakers are more creative than monolingual speakers. Learning a foreign language improves not only your ability to solve problems and to think more logically, it also makes you experiment with new words and phrases.
Leveling up your second language skills forces you to reach for alternate words when you can’t quite remember the original one you wanted to use. It improves your skills in divergent thinking, which is the ability to identify multiple solutions to a single problem.
9. It builds up your self-confidence
You’re about to teach yourself to believe, “yes, I can.” It’ll become your new personal mantra.
Confidence increases when a new skill is mastered, and learning a foreign language is no different. It increases your self-confidence. And let’s face it: confident people are more interesting than those who are unsure of themselves. The techniques you use to develop a second tongue result in a greater sense of open-mindedness.
In order to master a new language, conversations with native and fluent speakers are essential. If you’re shy but want to meet new people, using the excuse that you want to practice your speaking skills is a great opener and a doorway to making new friends, expanding your horizons and broadening your life experiences. Plus, who doesn’t want to be more interesting?
So, how do I get started?
Fortunately, gone are the days where the only way to learn a second language was to either become stranded in a foreign country or go back to high school language classes (and be honest, did you actually learn all that much in there?) There are now many different online lessons and tutorials to help you become proficient in the language of your choice.
FluentUstands out amongst language learning websites thanks to the huge range of interactive learning opportunities it provides.
FluentU makes it possible to learn languages from music videos, commercials, news and inspiring talks. It’s all stuff that native speakers actually watch.
With FluentU, you learn real languages—the same way that natives speak them. FluentU has a wide variety of videos like movie trailers, funny commercials and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU has interactive captions that let you tap on any word to see an image, definition, audio and useful examples. Now native language content is within reach with interactive transcripts.
Didn’t catch something? Go back and listen again. Missed a word? Hover your mouse over the subtitles to instantly view definitions.
You can learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s “learn mode.” Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
And FluentU always keeps track of vocabulary that you’re learning. It uses that vocab to give you a 100% personalized experience by recommending videos and examples.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes store.
Aside from FluentU, Duolingo is a really popular way to learn a language on-the-go. They provide a handy app that you can take with you anywhere!
No matter which tools you use when you decide to learn a language, just decide to learn one! You won’t regret it.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.
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Did you know that our world has about 6,500 languages? Sadly, only 20 percent of Americans speak a language other than English, but I think there is a solution to this. Over the past couple years, I have begun to notice that in many schools in the U.S., including mine, students don’t start the process of learning a new language until middle school. It would be extremely beneficial if schools instead thought about putting more money into acquiring bilingual programs for grammar school students.
The easiest way for someone to become bilingual is to start at a very young age, because their brain absorbs the sounds and rules of a new language naturally just like their native tongue. The older you get, the harder it is to learn a language because you have to study grammar rules and work around your already developed first language.
Some people think that a child only has room for one language in their life, and that to learn a second one, they would find it confusing. This is not true and in fact some places, such as Switzerland, have students learn up to two additional languages and by the time they graduate high school many of them are even trilingual.
A new language is one of the most rewarding experiences for anyone, but even more so at a young age. “During the first three years of life, the foundations for thinking, language, visions, attitude, aptitude, and other characteristics are laid down. It would be a waste not to use a child’s natural ability to learn during his or her most vital years when learning a second language is as easy as learning the first,” says Ronald Kotulak, author of “Inside the Brain.”
Some of the most crucial benefits of being bilingual are that a child’s focus, memory, planning and multitasking skills are better than if they are monolingual. Children can also ignore distractions easier because the part of their brain called the “executive function” is stronger in bilinguals, and this of course would benefit their academic performance in the classroom.
A second language can also help when traveling, especially a common one such as Spanish or French. Vacations to foreign countries would be more enjoyable, and it would open people’s minds to the different cultures of the world. My mother and father are fluent in Italian and English, so I know what it is like to be around someone bilingual.
A few years ago, my family and I visited Italy, where most of our relatives live. It was an amazing experience, but I felt a little bit out of place not being fully proficient in the language. Now, I think about how different that trip would have been if I had been able to communicate better. Everyday activities like listening to local music, watching a movie, or just getting a cup of coffee would have been effortless if I had known Italian.
Bilingualism at a young age also leads to many advantages in the long run, such as getting into a good college and having more career options. A second or third language can boost your chances of getting into a more academically advanced institution. Foreign language SAT tests are a great way of standing out during the college admission process. It’s important to show them what you’re capable of, and it can give you a head start by allowing you to complete the basic language requirement before other students. As the world is becoming more globalized, knowing a foreign language in business is also valuable. For example, someone who speaks Spanish has the advantage of communicating with people from 21 different countries worldwide. When applying for a new job, companies will certainly take this into consideration. If schools would teach languages from kindergarten through high school, more students would have the chance to go on to college, and have successful careers.