Learning a second language isn’t just good preparation for your semester abroad or that backpacking trip you planned for next spring.
In our increasingly globalized society, bilingualism is becoming more and more of a necessity, especially in the workplace.
And aside from helping your resume, picking up a second or third language has even been linked to a number of health and cognitive benefits, including improved memory and greater multi-tasking abilities.
Why You Should Study a Foreign Language
From staving off dementia to helping you become a better writer, there are plenty of reasons to start studying a foreign language.
1. Improved Memory
Learning a new language gives your brain a cognitive workout because you’re forced to constantly recall information, from vocabulary to verb conjugations.
This is why people who speak multiple languages tend to recall names, dates, directions, and facts more quickly than others.
In fact, the Journal of Experimental Psychology reported that in several studies, bilingual children demonstrated better working memories than monolingual children.
And building a stronger memory doesn’t just make your life easier—it’s also a great skill to have for many types of jobs.
2. Delayed Onset of Dementia
Many studies also link knowledge of multiple languages to a delayed onset of dementia.
For adults who speak two or more languages, the average age for the first signs of dementia was roughly four years older than for monolinguals.
In these studies, education, gender, and occupation showed no effect on the delay, which suggest that multilingualism is powerful enough to delay diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s on its own.
3. Enhanced Decision-Making
According to a study from the University of Chicago, since foreign language students frequently make judgments about which words and phrases are appropriate, they tend to have an easier time making other decisions as well.
Knowledge of more than one language has also been shown to reduce our heuristic biases, or mental shortcuts we use to evaluate decisions.
Instead, multilingual individuals tend to rely more on logic than gut instincts when faced with choices.
4. Wider Career Options
CNN Money has named bilingualism as the hottest skill for job seekers. Not only that, but bilingual employees can even earn anywhere from 5–20% more per hour than employees who speak just one language.
Among the most-sought languages in government jobs are Middle Eastern languages like Arabic or Farsi, while the private sector pays more for knowledge of Scandinavian and Asian languages.
With so many companies opening offices overseas and new, remote roles being developed with foreign companies, learning another language can significantly expand your job opportunities.
5. Write Better in Your First Language
By studying a new language, you’ll get a fresh perspective on grammar, sentence structure, and verb conjugations.
Becoming more aware of how these things can be structured and manipulated will make you a more effective communicator, as well as a more precise writer and editor.
If you make it far enough in your bilingual quest, you might even be able to write entire books in your second language, as Vladimir Nabokov did with Lolita.
6. Expand Your Vocabulary and Creativity
When you study a new language, you’ll realize that there are actually hundreds of ways to say the same thing, even if they’re not the typical phrases you’re used to.
This discovery usually happens during the translation process. You’ll see that when translated directly, many foreign phrases sound unusual in your language—but they’re not always incorrect.
In addition, when you’re trying to communicate in another language but don’t know the exact word or phrase to use, you’ll have to get creative with how you express yourself. While you might sound a little funny to locals, you’ll give your brain a great creative workout.
7. Better Listening Skills
Because learning a new language requires you to concentrate harder to interpret meaning and judge nuances, you’ll also become a better listener (even in your native language).
This can certainly benefit your personal relationships, as you’ll take more time to understand what the other person is trying to tell you, and you’ll also think more carefully about how to respond.
In class or at work, you’ll also be a more active listener, which means you’ll be able to learn more from others.
8. Greater Networking Opportunities
Obviously, the ability to speak more than one language can significantly boost your communication skills. But it can also give you more confidence to approach others and be open to new ideas.
You’ll be able to communicate with more people in more places, while also being more flexible when it comes to the opinions and ideas of others.
So if you want to expand your network, there’s no greater way than to start learning a new language and chatting with people you otherwise wouldn’t communicate with.
9. Enhanced Multitasking Abilities
Multilingual individuals are used to switching between language systems, which is no easy task for the brain, especially if you speak two very different languages, like Arabic and a romance language like French or Spanish.
Because of this ability, people who speak multiple languages are generally better multitaskers.
This is a great skill to have in the workplace, and it can also help to reduce the stress of dealing with multiple tasks at once.
10. New Perspective
Learning a new language will help you view the world from a new perspective.
You’ll see how an entire population expresses themselves, while at the same time becoming more empathetic to those learning your language.
This new viewpoint will certainly add value to your writing by making it more interesting, whether you’re working on nonfiction or a compelling narrative.
You’ll also be able to examine problems from new angles—and that’s beneficial in every aspect of life!
Benefits of Bilingualism
Mastering a second language can open many doors, from greater career opportunities to better communication in your native language.
Learning to speak another language can also be incredibly fun, so find a method that works for you and get started!
Is there a language you’re dying to learn? Tell us about it in the comments below!