According to Ethonologue, there are about 7100 Languages in the world today. That is 7009 more languages than English . With the world being more connected, there are more advantages for you to improve your linguistic skills than ever before. English is still (and will continue) to be the highest spoken language in the world. However there are numerous benefits of learning a new language.
I will share some key benefits of learning a new foreign language.
1. IMPROVED BRAIN PERFORMANCE
Researchers have done studies showing that learning a new language helps to increase the size of your brain physically. Scientists have done various tests,MRI scans to see the change in the patterns of the brain when one is learning a new language. Certain areas of the brain such as the cerebral cortex (the reasoning part of the brain) and the hippo-campus (short-term & long-term memory) have shown changes in their size.
In layman’s words, you get smarter. Your brain is like a muscle- the more you use it, the more it grows. The more it has grown, the more you can put it to use to improve your career and life. Our brain consists of millions of neural pathways, and the more work you give your brain, the stronger the pathways become.
Learning a new language also improves your memory. You are forced to learn new scripts, new words, new sentences. Other studies have shown that learning a new language slows down the onset of Alzheimers and Dementia in adults.
Other studies have shown that people who are multi-lingual are better at decision-making skills.
So, to quickly recap – for a better brain & improved reasoning skills starting learning new languages.
2. IMPROVED COMMUNICATION SKILLS
Learning a new language forces you to be a better listener. Honestly, how many of us are good at listening? With our increasing over-dependency on technology our attention spans have shortened significantly. We are constantly distracted and we lose focus quickly. Let’s say you are learning a new language, you are forced to slow down and actually listen to what you say and what the other person is saying.
If you are like me, living in North America, you fall into the trap thinking that everyone speaks English. But when you travel you get a culture shock. Last year, I had the fortune of spending 2 months in Nicaragua, and only a handful of people there spoke English. I was forced to learn Spanish inorder to navigate the city, even to get something to eat – I had to learn Spanish.
I noticed that when I was speaking with the locals using my broken Espanol- I paid close attention to what they were saying. I was forced to, I had no other choice. I also had to slow down my speech so they understand what I was saying. This did improve my communication skills slightly.
I also noticed I made better eye contact and paid more attention to what they were saying. I felt more connected and in the moment, when I was speaking to someone. Contrast this to our daily lives in North America, you might be speaking to your friends or colleagues in English – but you hardly pay attention to what they are saying. We tend to multi-task and not really pay attention to everything others say.
In order to be a better communicator, be a better listener. And learning a new language will help you with this.
3. MAKES TRAVEL MORE FUN
I don’t know about you, but I am not the type of person who enjoys travelling to an All-inclusive resort in Cuba and sipping Pina Colada on the beach. Yes, the skies are blue & the beaches are beautiful, but all you want to do is sit in a resort (with other English speakers) and drink & eat. Seriously? How is that fun? You can do that staying local. You don’t need to jump on a plane to do that..
I like to explore the town and the local attractions. Knowing the local language always makes travel more interesting. Besides, you will not be gouged by local vendors. Trust me, every vendor has a price for local speakers and another special price for foreigners. You have experience this, haven’t you? At the least, this will save you some cash.
You also look forward to travelling more often. It becomes fun, rather than just an escape from your current routine. Imagine going on a trip where you are truly enjoying the culture, the attractions,etc. And you look forward to go there to practice your newly acquired language skills.
4. MORE JOB OPPORTUNITIES
I don’t think this requires further explaining. You have noticed that Bilingual and Trilingual jobs are plenty. The required skill-set is unique, and they do get paid more than uni-lingual candidates. For example, in Canada someone who speaks both French and English is paid more than someone who speaks only English. I believe the same applies in the US as well where being Hispanic opens you up to more job opportunities in the market.
Let’s say that your company opens a brand new office in Brazil, and because you have learnt Portuguese – they ask you to go there to work for an assignment. I don’t know about you, but I will jump at an opportunity like that. Travel for free on your company’s dime. Why not?
5. MORE SOCIAL OPPORTUNITIES
We have a tendency to confine ourselves to our relatively small social group. Most people have a closed circle of friends from school or work. There is nothing wrong with that. However, we also fall into the trap of being confined to similar thought patterns/mindset. We start to share similar ideas and our views of the world becomes limited. (Don’t ditch your best friend because you are reading this).
Learning a new language opens up your social circle. You seek out friends from another culture – you expand your horizons, you learn about new cultures, you become more open-minded.
Knowing another language opens up opportunities to make new friends, and gain new experiences.
5.1. MAKE YOUR FRIENDS JEALOUS
One final (yet fun) benefit is that you can brag to your friends how many languages you know. Oh yeah!! The look on their faces when you are speaking to a someone in a foreign language… That look is priceless. Atleast for this, you must learn a new language.
Reir en voz alta (That’s laugh out loud in Spanish by the way).
In summary, learning a new language will make you smarter, open up more career opportunities, makes your travelling more fun, and also make new friends. And to repeat.. bragging rights!!
Suǒyǐ, nǐ hái děng shénme ne? Qù.. Kāishǐ xuéxí yīmén xīn de yǔyán.
(So,what are you waiting for? Go. Start Learning a New Language)