By: Rachid Ouedraogo
The world is becoming increasingly connected. As a result, knowing another (or multiple) languages is a helpful skill to have, especially as you continue your education and enter the workforce. In fact, most of the world’s population knows at least a second language. It is an exciting, and sometimes difficult, skill to learn. However, there are many resources available such as YouTube videos, language websites and apps (such as Duolingo), and language courses (like our program at SCSU). There are many languages you can choose to learn: Spanish, French, Japanese, Arabic, English, Korean, Mandarin, and more! The ability to communicate and connect with people around the world makes learning a new language worthwhile. Not convinced? Here are some more reasons to learn a foreign language:
Language learning improves your memory and your performance.
Many studies have shown that learning a new language has many benefits for your brain. People who speak more than one language have improved memory, better critical thinking skills, more focus, and better listening skills. In addition, they are better at multi-tasking. This extra learning prolongs your brain health and can prevent mental aging. All of these are great long-term benefits. Plus, you’ll have access to a whole new vocabulary!
Connect with new people.
Speaking a new language will ease your ability to communicate with foreigners and gives you an opportunity to make new friends. When joining a language center such as IEC you will meet people from all over the world. If you can speak someone’s native language, they often appreciate it because you took the effort to learn it. Students that come to our program, even with basic English skills, make new friends for life. As an added bonus, your new friend could teach you their native language. In addition to making friends, a new language can advance your career. You will have access to an expanded network of people. Knowing multiple languages gives you a competitive advantage over others in the job market. Many employers today prefer to hire someone who knows at least one other language.
You’ll gain a new perspective.
When you learn a new language, you are opening the door to new cultures, ideas, and people. Languages have different words based on their culture. These words express ideas and values that are important in other cultures. Some researchers and academics believe the way we see the world is due to the language we use (linguistic relativism). You can learn a lot about another country or culture just from learning the language. For example, a person’s social status in a culture can be very important. Thus, their culture may have multiple words to describe different relatives, such as an aunt on the mother or father’s side, or even words that describe the birth order of siblings. Other languages may not have this characteristic because it is not as important in another culture. Understanding different cultural values can foster acceptance of others & new ideas.
Knowing a foreign language can have a massive impact on the way you travel. It can make traveling easier and more fun. There is no better way to learn to speak like a native than connecting and interacting with native speakers. Locals will appreciate your effort to speak their language. You will have more opportunities to explore local areas when you know the language. You will be able to see more than just the common tourist areas. In addition, knowing the language will allow you to travel safely—you’ll understand what people are saying, know directions, and feel more comfortable. Knowing a language, even a few words or phrases, can be key to an unforgettable experience abroad.
So, have we convinced you yet? To start learning a new language, we suggest researching online what languages interest you the most. Ask yourself the following questions: Is there a language I’ve always admired? Is there a country I want to travel to? Is there a culture I want to learn more about? What language would be most helpful to me? Make a list and start from there.
“If you talk to man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language that goes to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela
For more information about our English program, visit www.stcloudstate.edu/iec.