As the age-old saying goes, ‘it’s never too late to learn something new’. And when it comes to today’s global society, learning a second language could prove to be a huge advantage. Not only has it been proven to improve your brain health, but it also boosts your career prospects and opens you up to new experiences.
Here are 20 amazing benefits of learning a foreign language and how it can improve your career and overall wellbeing.
1. It widens job opportunities
Being bilingual in today’s crowded job market can be incredibly beneficial. It gives you a competitive edge when searching for new opportunities or within your current career. If you speak a second language over an equally qualified candidate, the hiring manager will probably choose you, as you have the added bonus of speaking an additional language. Most companies deal with foreign clients and suppliers and, therefore, need people in-house who can communicate with them in their native tongue.
2. It boosts brain power
When learning something new, our brains need to cope with the complexity as it absorbs and makes sense of new patterns, thus developing key communication skills (such as cognitive thinking and problem solving) that are needed to digest and remember fresh information.
3. It expands chances to travel
Learning a new language will encourage you to travel to cities or countries where that language is spoken to practice with the locals. Take Spanish, for example; it’s the main language in over 20 countries. You could, therefore, visit those countries and comfortably communicate with the natives.
4. It improves your first language skills
During our day-to-day tasks, we rarely give a second thought to our own vocabulary and grammatical rules. We are confident in our capabilities and often ignore common practices. As we learn a new language, we focus on these constructions of the language, making us think about what they are in our mother tongue.
5. It increases your understanding of the world
Learning a new language gives you a greater global understanding of the world. You will instantly have access to foreign books, films, TV programs and newspapers, which will give you a real insight into the history and culture of a nation. This, ultimately, gives you an indication of how the world works, including politics and security.
6. It allows you to experience new cultures
Learning a new language opens up a whole new world of opportunities — the main one being able to experience new cultures. You will have the chance to see new things from a different perspective and be able to connect with people across the world. You get to learn what’s fashionable within a culture, including music, style, history and literature. This, in turn, will help you grow as a person and appreciate things that you wouldn’t have noticed before.
7. It’s an achievement in itself
Learning something new is an achievement in itself. It teaches you how to organize and grow your knowledge, resulting in an additional skill on your résumé. With your newfound confidence of knowing another language, you’ll be more comfortable and geared up to learn another.
8. It improves your memory
It’s common knowledge that the more you use your brain, the better it works. Learning a new language gives your memory a good workout in the brain gym. In other words, it constantly tests your ability to remember and think quickly. According to an article in the New York Times, ‘the collective evidence from a number of studies suggests that the bilingual experience improves the brain’s so-called executive function — a command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks.’
9. It enhances your ability to multitask
Multitasking can be difficult for some people to manage and do well. According to a study from the Penn State University, people who are multilingual and proficient at slipping from one language system to another are practiced at this very demanding work for the brain. Those who have developed the ability to think in different languages and move from one to the other become much better multitaskers, reducing stress levels.
10. It sharpens the mind
Bilingual people are critical thinkers. They have to develop a discipline while studying to allow them to become more perceptive. This, conversely, allows them to better observe their surroundings and spot misleading information that they would have not previously paid attention to.
11. It enhances your decision-making skills
Do you spend hours deliberating over what to eat for lunch? Or which shoes you should buy? If so, learning a new language might make you a little more decisive. Researchers from Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona suggest that using a foreign language provides people some emotional distance, which effectively allows them to take the more utilitarian action.
12. It improves performance in other academic areas
Language skills boost your ability to do well in problem-solving tasks across the board. 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. This is due to their ability to concentrate and multitask better than their classmates.
13. It increases networking skills
Learning a new language will make you more culturally aware, which, in turn, will allow you to be more flexible and appreciative of other’s opinions and facts. You’ll be able to move through different groups of people and make connections across the board. Networking is such a vital part of today’s working world and being able to communicate in someone’s native tongue is impressive.
14. Your brain gets bigger
It’s been proven that your brain structure actually increases when a second language is acquired. Research from the Georgetown University Medical Center found that bilingual speakers who use both languages often may have more gray matter in the brain regions responsible for attention, inhibition and short-term memory.
15. It stalls dementia and Alzheimer’s
Dementia and Alzheimer’s are inevitable for some elderly people — no matter what you do. However, studies have shown that those who speak a second language can stall these diseases by four years, at least. I know it doesn’t seem like a lot, but for those around you, it certainly will be of great importance to them if they can avoid seeing you suffer for a number of years. Researcher Suvarna Alladi says that ‘speaking more than one language is thought to lead to better development of the areas of the brain that handle executive functions and attention tasks, which may help protect from the onset of dementia.’
16. It builds self-confidence
Learning new skills will boost your confidence as you’ll be more attractive to potential employers. Studying a foreign language is no different; you’ll be more interesting if you’re able to speak two or more languages fluently.
17. You get to make new connections
Depending on where you’re learning the language, you’ll most likely meet new people and make good connections. These learners will also be on the same wavelength as you and you’ll most likely share similar interests. What’s more, you can widen your opportunities by speaking to natives while traveling.
18. It boosts your creativity
Learning a second language will force you to reach for alternative words when you can’t remember the original one you wanted; this helps boost your creativity and makes you experiment with new words and phrases. You’ll be more accustomed to thinking outside of the box and finding alternative solutions to complex problems.
19. It increases your ability to learn more languages
Did you know being that bilingual improves your ability to learn additional languages? Indeed, a study by the University of Haifa found that bilingual speakers have an easier time learning new languages compared to those who only speak one language. Languages reinforce one another other, researchers noted, and provide you with the necessary foundations to understand syntactic, phonetic and morphological rules across a wide spectrum of languages.
20. You become more empathetic
Not only does learning a new language expand your understanding of the world, but it also allows you to become a more empathetic individual. Being able to communicate with others in different languages opens you up to a range of different perspectives, cultures and experiences, all of which enrich your emotional intelligence and empathy for those around you.
Whether your goal is to learn one more language, or ten, the benefits are undeniable. Not only will this sharpen your intellectual and academic acumen, but it will also enhance your employability.
It’s never too late to learn something new, and with countless resources and platforms available at your fingertips, learning another language has never been easier. All you need is the motivation and determination to get started!
What are some other benefits to being multilingual? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 9 January 2018 and contains contributions by Melina Theodorou.