It’s true that English has become a global lingua franca over the past several decades. But this fact, however, really should have little effect on your decision to learn a foreign language. The attitude that English alone is enough, in fact, creates self-imposed limitations. To remain monolingual is to stunt your educational development, to restrict your communication and thinking abilities, and to deny yourself the ability to fully appreciate and understand the world in which you live.
Learning another language opens up new opportunities and gives you perspectives that you might never have encountered otherwise. Personal, professional, social, and economic considerations all point to the advantages of learning foreign languages.
Now here I can give you 10 very good reasons why you should be learning a foreign language in brief:
To increase global understanding: As the sayings go: “A different language is a different vision of life”, and “No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive.” Learning another language gives the learner the ability to step inside the mind and context of that other culture. Without the ability to communicate and understand a culture on its own terms, true access to that culture is barred.
To improve employment potential: As such the English language alone is probably sufficient if all we need to do is buy our products abroad if we need to purchase foreign goods and services. But when it comes to selling a product abroad, you have to understand the psychology and the belief structure of your client. That is to say, if businesses are to effectively compete in a global economy, they must learn to deal with other cultures on their own terms.
Companies that plan to do business abroad, therefore, have a dire need for bilingual or multilingual employees. Businesses that intend to compete internationally need employees who can competently communicate in the locales where they do business. Employees who speak one language can communicate only with people who speak that same language.
To increase native language ability: As the saying goes “Those who know nothing of foreign languages, knows nothing of their own.” This is true since knowledge of other languages boosts students’ understanding of languages in general and enables students to use their native language more effectively. This applies to specific language skills as well as overall linguistic abilities. Foreign language learners have stronger vocabulary skills in English, a better understanding of the language, and improved literacy in general.
Sharpens one’s cognitive and life skills: Studying a foreign language has a ripple effect. It helps to improve student performance in other subjects because learning a language involves a variety of learning skills. Studying a foreign language can enhance one’s ability to learn and function in several other areas. Children who have studied a language at the elementary level score higher on tests in reading, language arts, and math. People who have learned foreign languages show greater cognitive development in areas such as mental flexibility, creativity, and higher order thinking skills, such as problem-solving, conceptualizing and reasoning.
In addition to cognitive benefits, the study of foreign languages leads to the acquisition of some important life skills. Because language learners learn to deal with unfamiliar cultural ideas, they are much better equipped to adapt and cope in a fast-changing world. They also learn to effectively handle new situations. In addition, the encounter with cultures different from one’s own leads to tolerance of diverse lifestyles and customs. And it improves the learner’s ability to understand and communicate with people from different walks of life.
To improve the chances of entry into college or graduate school: Today, most colleges and universities require a minimum of two years of high school foreign language instruction for admission. The majority of universities rightly consider knowledge of a foreign language and culture part of what every educated person should know. Even if an undergraduate or graduate institution doesn’t require foreign language study, it’s often recommended by programs since knowing a language can’t hurt your application and is highly likely to make you a more competitive candidate in the admissions process.
To appreciate international literature, music, and film: As the saying goes “The many great gardens of the world, of literature and poetry, of painting and music, of religion and architecture, all make the point as clear as possible: The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden. If you don’t want paradise, you are not human; and if you are not human, you don’t have a soul.” This is true since most of the world’s literary and artistic works have been written in languages other than English.
A translation of text can never be fully true to the intent, beauty, style, and uniqueness of its original. A translation is always to a large degree subject to the interpretation of the translator not least because some elements of languages simply don’t have translations in other languages.
Word plays, metaphors, innuendos, cultural references and culturally loaded vocabulary words, and formulations unique to the original language often get lost in translation. To be able to fully appreciate literature, theater, music, and film in other languages, one must be able to access them in their original form.
To make travel more feasible and enjoyable: Though it’s possible to travel to foreign countries without speaking the native language, your experience will be largely shaped by your ability or inability to see beyond the surface of the culture. When you lack the ability to communicate in the native language, you cannot fully participate in day-to-day life, understand the culture, or communicate with the people.
The language barrier can be anywhere from frustrating to downright dangerous. When you know the language, you have the comfort of being able to successfully navigate all sorts of situations, like order meals in restaurants, ask for and understand directions, find accommodations and perhaps negotiate cheaper prices, and meet and talk with natives, to name only a few. In most countries, people will appreciate attempts to use their language. You will be able to communicate more completely and have a deeper, more satisfying travel experience.
To expand study abroad options: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”: This is basically what happens to students who often shy away from studying in countries where English is not the native language for all the wrong reasons. They mistakenly believe that their grades will suffer, that their language proficiency isn’t adequate, or that they won’t be able to fit in or understand the culture. But one fails to understand that when a student learns a foreign language its benefit is that once students leave the language classroom they can immediately put into practice what they have learned in class. Because students can focus on their language development while learning about the culture, their daily experiences and courses complement one another leading to comparable or even better grades than at the home institution, where students often take a myriad of courses that have little or no connection.
For advanced language students, the opportunities are even greater. Applicants at the advanced skill level can participate in programs that allow them to be fully immersed and integrated into the academic and social life of the country in which they are studying.
To increase understanding of oneself and one’s own culture: As is truly said “As the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate more lovingly, our own.” Knowing another language and culture affords you the unique opportunity of seeing yourself and your own culture from an outside perspective.
There are aspects of your language, yourself, your life and your own culture that you accept as absolute and universal or that you have never even considered until you encounter a culture and people who do things in a much different way than you’re used to contacting with other languages and cultures gives you the unique opportunity to step outside your familiar scope of existence and view your culture’s customs, traditions, and norms as well as your own value system through the eyes of others.
Conversely, a monolingual, monocultural view of the world severely limits your perspective. Intercultural experiences have a monumental influence on shaping your identity, heightening your self-awareness, and giving you a full appreciation of your life situation. These things can happen only with knowledge of cultures and languages other than your own.
To make lifelong friends: As the saying here says “The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway.” Knowing other languages effectively increases the number of people on the globe with whom you can communicate. And people who speak other languages fully appreciate the effort and desire learners expand to get to know their culture and to communicate with them.
Whether through meeting foreign exchange students on your campus or local immigrants in your community, whether getting to know natives or international students while studying abroad, or whether establishing a connection with a pen pal in another country, your ability to speak other languages and your interest in other cultures can connect you deeply with people around the globe.
So, if anyone has told you that learning another language is impractical, unrewarding, or simply a waste of your precious time then he/she is doing you a great disservice. Take advantage and enhance your life … learn a language!