With the English language being the world’s lingua franca, many English speakers may think it’s not necessary to learn a new one. They aren’t necessarily right. Knowing a foreign language never goes to waste. You may use it while in a new country to communicate with the locals so they can help you find your destination or to maybe feel at home after you moved there to teach English to non-English speakers. It may even help you in your job, and your business travels. Knowing a second language means a whole new literature is in your hands. However, these aren’t the only benefits of learning a second language. There are many more. Here’s our list of nine of them.
Why Is It Important to Know More Than One Language?
In today’s increasingly interdependent world, speaking a second language is an essential skill that gives you the ability to communicate and connect with people from all over the world in a quicker and more meaningful way. Connections are now more important than ever, considering the continual globalization of the world’s economy, and knowing a foreign language will always give you a significant advantage.
There are tangible benefits to being bilingual—it can improve your brain and memory functions, boost your creativity and self-esteem, help in your career opportunities, as well as increase your understanding of the language you already speak. Read on to find out more about the benefits of learning a foreign language.
1. It Stimulates Your Brain
Learning a new language undoubtedly helps your gray matter grow. Acquiring a new language means that you’re going to learn a whole new set of rules of grammar and lexis (whether you find this part amusing or not). While your brain is trying to keep up with the new language’s complexities and take in the new patterns, new developments are happening in the brain. Just like muscles, the brain gets stronger and bigger the more you put it to use.
Nothing challenges the brain like learning a language does. Scientists have established that we use the left side of the brain when speaking our native language. Whereas, second language usage isn’t limited to a specific hemisphere. It uses both of them, increasing the size of the white and grey matter of the brain.
But that is not all; acquiring a new language also helps to stave off cognitive decline and mental aging. Recent research shows that multilingual adults experienced the first signs of Alzheimer’s and dementia at a later age compared to monolinguals. They also researched other variables like health, economic status, educational level, and gender, but none of them contributed as much as the number of languages that person spoke.
2. It Improves Your Attention Span
With the human attention span seemingly narrowing more and more every day, according to many studies, deciding to learn a new language may be the antidote to this situation. Recent studies show that the average attention span of a person has reduced from twelve to eight seconds. Researchers suggest that learning a new language helps the brain maintain focus and block distractions. This is a result of regularly switching between languages.
When speaking, bilinguals or multilinguals are constantly switching between two or more languages in their head, and this juggling improves the brain’s ability to concentrate on one thing while ignoring other irrelevant information. As one study notes:
“The need to constantly control two languages confers advantages in the executive system, the system that directs cognitive processing. These effects have been demonstrated primarily using visual stimuli and are heightened in children and older adults. Specifically, bilinguals, relative to monolinguals, are better able to monitor conflicting sensory information and tune into a relevant stimulus or stimulus features amid irrelevant information, via a process known as inhibitory control.”
3. More Career Options to Choose From
We are living in a multicultural world; many companies are opening offices overseas to extend their market. So the need for bilingual candidates is greater than ever. By acquiring a foreign language, you will double the number of available jobs for you and climb the career ladder much faster.
In the highly competitive job market, employers are looking to hire someone that stands out from the rest of the candidates. Knowing a foreign language could help you be chosen among many other job applicants. Having a foreign language listed in your CV might be what a potential employer is looking for.
Also, nowadays, people who are proficient in more than one language are high in demand in the job market in all sectors and industries, as the employers consider them to be better communicators and problem solvers. Skills that one master by acquiring a second language.
4. It Boosts Your Creativity
Knowing a foreign language isn’t beneficial only to the brain; it also influences your level of creativity. As a person starts to learn a language, they get familiar with the culture of the place where that language is spoken. The more you learn about new cultures, the more you’ll look at the world around you from different perspectives. The change of views will make you more original, elaborate, and flexible—all qualities of being a creative person.
In addition, learning a new language forces your brain to put words together in creative ways, which stimulates your brain and boosts your creativity. This creativity will spill over into other aspects of your life too. Plus, experts say that being creative improves your well-being, And who are we to argue with experts?
5. It Improves Your First Language
One learns the mother tongue intuitively and without any formal education. Being raised in a society where a particular language is spoken, children start to pick up the language they hear.
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However, learning another language is a whole different deal. From the beginning, you’ll get introduced to grammar, vocabulary, idioms, and sentence structure. As you learn more about the second language, you become more conscious of what you know in the first language. While before you couldn’t quite explain the abstract rules and language structure, learning a new language helps you put names to what you learned instinctively in the first language.
Furthermore, you become aware of the differences in structure, vocabulary, grammar, idioms, and sentence structure between the two languages. All of these factors improve comprehension and conversation and can make you better at your first language.
6. You Build Multitasking Skills
Not many people are good at multitasking. However, this often doesn’t apply to bilingual people. They are some of the most experienced when it comes to multitasking. Their brain has been practicing in switching from one language to the other daily. When the brain gets used to this demanding job of switching from one language to another, it isn’t difficult for them to use this skill in other tasks, too.
A study done by the National Institutes of Health concluded that bilinguals switch tasks faster than monolinguals. They found that bilingual children in their research responded quite well to their multiple computer tasks in comparison to their monolingual fellows.
Other research also found that bilinguals demonstrate more efficient brain functioning than non-bilinguals, and a bilingual person’s brain maintains better task-switching even as they get older.
7. It Slows Down Cognitive Decline
If you still haven’t started and needed another incentive to start learning a new language, here’s one. Learning a language may reduce your chances of getting early onset of cognitive impairments. More than 16 million people in the United States live with cognitive impairment, be it Alzheimer’s, Dementia, or any other disorder. The latest study on the effect of bilingualism in cognitive aging found that people who spoke more than one language regardless of their gender, ethnicity, and occupation experience the onset of cognitive decline four years and a half later than the ones who spoke only one.
While knowing a second language is not exactly the fountain of youth, it definitely helps keep your brain younger.
8. It Improves Your Memory
The brain is compared to muscles for one reason. Seeing that the more physical exercises you do, the more the muscles strengthen and get larger. This aspect applies to the brain too. The more you challenge it, the more the brain expands, and the better it functions.
You can think of learning a language as an exercise for the brain. Having first to understand and then later recall multiple grammar rules and vocabulary, strengthens the memory muscle. That’s why people who know more than one language are more likely to retain information. They’re way better at remembering lists, names, cell phone numbers, and directions than monolinguals.
Don’t believe that? There is actual evidence that learning vocabulary boosts memory. So, delve into another language and give your brain a good workout to strengthen your memory.
9. It Boosts Your Self-Esteem
No one wants to be put in the spotlight, especially when talking in a foreign language when the chances of making mistakes are quite high. Yet, this is what characterizes language learning. It breaks you out of your shell again and again that eventually, you’ll feel comfortable in every situation regardless of whether you’re making mistakes or not.
Nothing beats the confidence you feel when talking to a native speaker in their language. That’s when your self-esteem will sky-rocket. Becoming proficient in a language is like mastering any other skill. Once you’re there, you’ll feel confident and nice about yourself.
The benefits of learning another language are innumerable. Those that we mentioned in our list are just a part of them. Yet, no matter how many lists are out there, no one can convince you of the benefits as much as your own language learning experience will. With that in mind, choose a language that you find exciting and appealing and open the door to the many benefits that come with language proficiency.