What are the benefits of learning another language?Does learning a foreign language just seem like too much work to be worth your time? Are you worried that learning a second--or third, or fourth--language will just result in confusion?
If so, you're not alone. Many believe that learning a new language is confusing for the mind, and that it has a negative impact on a person's native language. After all, if we can't even recall words from our native language sometimes when speaking, why should we bother with a new one?
Fortunately, this mentality couldn't be more wrong. There are, in reality, little to no disadvantages to learning a foreign language. In reality, learning a new language is nothing but beneficial for the mind and body, and has countless physical, mental, personal, professional, and social benefits. Let's take a look at 15 incredible benefits of learning another language.
Physical and Mental Benefits of Learning a LanguageMore and more studies have proven the amazing physical and mental benefits that come from learning a new language. Here are some of them:
Brain GrowthA foreign language is an entirely new system of rules and meaning, and learning one doesn't only improve your cognitive abilities, but can actually make your brain physically grow in size. The more you learn, the more the language centers in your brain grow to accommodate your new linguistic abilities. The result: a bigger, better working brain.
A Sharper MindOne study revealed that multilingual people are better at observing their surroundings and spotting anything misleading, deceptive, or amiss. Learning a language involves increasing awareness, and this awareness also transfers to the rest of your life. It's no surprise that the remarkably sharp fictional Sherlock Holmes could solve any crime, considering his knowledge of several languages.
Increased Multitasking AbilityJust as they can switch between two languages quickly, bilingual people can also switch between tasks quickly. People who speak more than one language show more cognitive flexibility and find it easier to adapt to unexpected situations.
Improved MemoryFor those of you who fear learning a language because you already have troubles remembering words in your native language, fear not: learning a foreign language actually has the opposite effect. Learning a language gives your memory a fantastic workout and trains your brain to recall information better and more quickly. It's a great way to improve your memory. After all, use it or lose it.
Delay DementiaWhile we're on the topic of memory, why not also delay of the onset of Dementia or Alzheimer's for a bit longer? More and more studies have proven that being bilingual or multilingual helps delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease and Dementia for as many as five years. Yes, that's right: the effect of learning another language on dementia is even greater than any delay achievable with the most modern drugs. If that's not a reason to go pick up a foreign language dictionary, I don't know what is.
Better Decision MakingIf one of your New Year's Resolutions is to waste less time comparing products in the grocery store, then learning a foreign language might be the answer to your indecision. According to a study from the University of Chicago, decision making is an easier process for multilingual people. After all, if your mind is accustomed to constantly choosing between several vocabulary options, then making other decisions will come easier, as well.
Better Listening SkillsI'm sorry, what was that? Yes, you heard me right: Learning a foreign language can actually help you improve your listening skills. When you learn a new language, your brain works harder to distinguish between different types of sounds, which means your overall listening skills improve in any language you speak.
Linguistic SensitivityI think it's Chinese...no, maybe it's Japanese...wait, is it Korean? Don't you wish you could identify that language being spoken by the couple next to you in line at the grocery store? If you're a curious casual linguist hoping to develop your language identification abilities, then knowing more than one language is your answer. Just being exposed to different sounds in two different languages can help you to better distinguish between other foreign languages. Infants in bilingual homes can even distinguish between languages they've never heard, according to one study.
Personal and Social Benefits to learning a languageIf the health benefits of learning a language haven't convinced you yet, take a look at some of the many personal and social benefits:
Self-Discovery and Self-ActualizationWhile these may not be the first benefits that comes to mind, self-awareness, self-discovery and self-actualization may be one of the most profoundly valuable personal benefits. Trying to understand a language and the culture and history that accompanies it helps you to come to terms with how you view the world and other cultures, as well as how you view your own. This also leads you to come to terms with yourself. It's a powerful, rewarding life experience.
Flexibility and Openness to Other CulturesA language is a doorway to a particular culture and history, so learning a language helps you to better understand this culture and history. It allows you to become more flexible, understanding, and appreciative towards different ways of life and helps you to see the world from different perspectives. In our increasingly connected world, this is a very valuable tool, and can also make traveling an extremely rewarding experience.
Become More WorldlyWhen you only speak one language, you limit yourself to the culture, history, and mentality of a single group of people. As soon as you start learning a foreign language, you open the door to an entirely new way of thinking and seeing the world. Charlemagne once touched on this phenomenon by saying "To have another language is to possess a second soul." Besides making you more flexible and open to other cultures, this ability makes it easier for you to relate to other people and become a more wise and experienced global citizen.
Improve Your First LanguageNow it's time to address all the language-learning doubters out there who believe that learning a new language will make it more difficult to remember things in their native language. In reality, it's just the opposite: learning a foreign language can actually help you improve your first language. Since learning a second language draws your attention the rules and structures that already come naturally in your native language, you become more linguistically aware of your own language and how to improve it. I can personally vouch for this benefit. As writer Geoffrey Willians said, "You can never understand one language until you understand at least two."
Increased Performance in Other SubjectsJust as learning a new language improves your ability in your own language, it also improves your abilities in other subjects. The new cognitive skills developed when learning a new language have been proven to increase academic performance, and continued immersion was even shown to increase IQ.
Professional Benefits to learning a languageIf you're a career-minded individual and still not convinced about all of the language learning benefits, there are several excellent professional benefits to learning a language to add to the list of social and health benefits. Here they are:
Expand Career PotentialLanding a good job is becoming more and more difficult throughout the world, and it's increasingly necessary to give yourself a competitive edge. Learning a foreign language might be just the edge you need. In addition to opening up more job possibilities and allowing you to be able to cross cultural barriers, employers also associate foreign languages with potential employee's intelligence, flexibility, and openness to diversity. There's a reason that we think that multilingual people are smarter. Be that person, and it might just open up some new career opportunities.
Increase Networking SkillsFinally, speaking another language opens up an entirely new world of communication and networking possibilities for you. In a world that's becoming more and more connected each day, it's extremely beneficial to be able to communicate with as many of its members as possible. The technology to do so is no longer a barrier, and once you break down the linguistic barrier, your network can grow tremendously.
From brain power to networking skills, there's no doubt that learning a new language is extremely beneficial. Language learning brings with it an incredible number of health, social, and professional benefits, and scientists are discovering more and more each year.
So what are you waiting for?! Try learning a language for free today and start experiencing all of the benefits.
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