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The Benefits of Learning a Language

jason-oxenham-ceo March 9, 2016, 12:02 am

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 Language

More and more studies have proven the amazing physical and mental benefits that come from learning a new language. Here are some of them:

Brain Growth

A 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 Mind

One 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 Ability

Just 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 Memory

For 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 Dementia

While 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 Making

If 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 Skills

I'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 Sensitivity

I 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 language

If 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-Actualization

While 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 Cultures

A 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 Worldly

When 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 Language

Now 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 Subjects

Just 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 language

If 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 Potential

Landing 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 Skills

Finally, 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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The Benefits of Learning a Language
Diana-S1 March 9, 2016, 2:32 am
English is my native language and have always loved its study.  I agree with Jason regarding language confusion; RL is aimed at adults who are should be very confident with their own languages.  I’ve studied French for nearly four years and have never confused the two languages.  For example, I would never say something such as “I étudie French,” even though the verbs study and étudier sound similar to each other.  In fact, I’ve learned a lot about English because of my French studies:  especially regarding vocabulary.  Many English words come directly from French, or are heavily influenced by French, including: cheque, nation, and cream.
 
Studying French has also opened up to me a new culture, and as I work through the lessons, I quite enjoy the little blurbs on France and its culture...Read More
English is my native language and have always loved its study.  I agree with Jason regarding language confusion; RL is aimed at adults who are should be very confident with their own languages.  I’ve studied French for nearly four years and have never confused the two languages.  For example, I would never say something such as “I étudie French,” even though the verbs study and étudier sound similar to each other.  In fact, I’ve learned a lot about English because of my French studies:  especially regarding vocabulary.  Many English words come directly from French, or are heavily influenced by French, including: cheque, nation, and cream.
 
Studying French has also opened up to me a new culture, and as I work through the lessons, I quite enjoy the little blurbs on France and its culture.  Another benefit to learning French, for me as a Canadian, comes when I listen to speakers on CBC or CTV news.  I like to see if I can understand the speaker before the English translator takes over; sometimes I’m pretty close.  Thus, learning French may even help me learn about my own country.
 
The Benefits of Learning a Language
Deven--3 देवन--३ March 9, 2016, 4:51 am
Thanks Jason! This is a great article. This makes me even more confident in my language studies!
The Benefits of Learning a Language
Steven-W15 March 9, 2016, 6:36 am
Terrific article. I couldn't agree more. Bilingual / multilingual people are typically those who build bridges between communities and foster greater understanding between cultures. That Charlemagne quote is certainly true as well: speaking two languages is like possessing two souls (which, btw, don't talk to each other - which is why translating between two languages is so difficult...).
 
The Benefits of Learning a Language
Tony-S10 March 9, 2016, 11:28 am
Great extensive article. People often wonder why I am bothering to learn another language.
The Benefits of Learning a Language
Bob-D March 9, 2016, 4:25 pm
I've wanted to learn languages for a long time.  The funny reason is that when I read the book "Death of a President" (dealing with the death of President Kennedy),  there was a section in there that talked about all the foreign leaders who arrived for the funeral.  One was King Haile Selaisse of Ethiopia.  He could not speak English, but wanted to express his condolences to Mrs. Kennedy.  It turned out that both were quite fluent with French (a second language for both) and they conversed quite some time in French.  I always found that to be a fascinating story.  

So, now I speak pretty good German (thanks to Rocket German) and am nearly done with the Rocket French course.  But it takes a lot of work and I still review German at least once weekly...Read More
I've wanted to learn languages for a long time.  The funny reason is that when I read the book "Death of a President" (dealing with the death of President Kennedy),  there was a section in there that talked about all the foreign leaders who arrived for the funeral.  One was King Haile Selaisse of Ethiopia.  He could not speak English, but wanted to express his condolences to Mrs. Kennedy.  It turned out that both were quite fluent with French (a second language for both) and they conversed quite some time in French.  I always found that to be a fascinating story.  

So, now I speak pretty good German (thanks to Rocket German) and am nearly done with the Rocket French course.  But it takes a lot of work and I still review German at least once weekly.  I've spoken German in Germany and while the natives might have just been kind, they did compliment me on my German.  This summer it is off to France and I hope to speak nothing but French.
The Benefits of Learning a Language
jason-oxenham-ceo March 9, 2016, 6:25 pm
Hi all - Thanks for the feedback, and I am glad to hear all of your viewpoints! In particular, it's always great to hear stories like yours Bob. Enjoy France, it certainly is one place where speaking the local language enhances the traveling experience!
The Benefits of Learning a Language
rigoletto March 10, 2016, 7:03 am
Un bell'articolo! I hope that's right! Beautiful article/write up! Very motivational too.

Grazie mille!
The Benefits of Learning a Language
leilayell_07 March 10, 2016, 2:44 pm
So true...  thanks for the intel!
The Benefits of Learning a Language
pauldorsey March 13, 2016, 2:10 am
I have been studying German since 2012 when I attended a Berlin Language School for several months as a complete beginner.  Since then, I have tried out different software programs, including Fluenz and Rosetta Stone.  For the past 18 months I have studied with a private instructor with Berlitz.  So far, Rocket German has been a great tool for me to review what  I have learned from several years ago and continue to advance in my language journey.  I love the German language with its many complexities and challenges!!!  Great article and I already have made a great penpal from Germany!
The Benefits of Learning a Language
Tony-S10 March 14, 2016, 6:02 am
Great article. Some days you can progress so much and wonder what you learn and other days you get confidence from what you know. It is a struggle I wont give up.
The Benefits of Learning a Language
Matthew-H68 March 15, 2016, 7:33 pm
Thanks Jason. I was starting to wonder why I had chosen to study another language, and this article helped refresh my memory on that! Gracias y hasta la proxima! 
 
The Benefits of Learning a Language
Schmidts1976 March 15, 2016, 8:51 pm
Thanks this motivates me to work on my German studies.
The Benefits of Learning a Language
awen-- March 19, 2016, 5:22 pm
Thanks for these great articles; may I ask if you archive them - and where might I find older posts since some of them have useful links to other resources. 
The Benefits of Learning a Language
Fred-C14 March 20, 2016, 8:05 pm
Cheers Jason.

I've reached the age where putting off dementia is actually a worthwhile goal. The only problem with German is that it is so b''''' complicated that it is probably causing some other sort of mental impairment!  
The Benefits of Learning a Language
jason-oxenham-ceo March 20, 2016, 8:26 pm
Hi all - Thanks for the feedback! It certainly is an interesting topic!

Awen - In the last few months these posts have been appearing on our blog. You can see these on the front end here; https://www.rocketlanguages.com/blog/

Fred - I think most people go through stages with their language learning (regardless of the language) just like that
The Benefits of Learning a Language
Dan-H24 March 21, 2016, 12:44 pm
Fred: I feel your pain! As we grow older, getting our brains to construct those new connections and pathways is difficult. But all in all, I think it is worth the effort. I have set a personal goal of not dying until I am fluent in Spanish. At the rate I am going, I should live to about 104.
Keep thinking!
Dan
The Benefits of Learning a Language
Fred-C14 March 21, 2016, 1:03 pm
Dan
To meet your fluency criteria I would probably have to live forever!  
Fred
The Benefits of Learning a Language
Dan-H24 March 21, 2016, 1:33 pm
Fred: sounds like a recipe for immortality to me!
The Benefits of Learning a Language
Maisarah July 15, 2016, 5:18 am
Love the article! Thank you for posting this.
The Benefits of Learning a Language

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