8 reasons why you should really learn a language...
So you have always had the intention to learn a foreign language but never quite got around to doing it? Well, you know what they say; it is never too late to start something new! Here are 8 impressive reasons as to why mastering a foreign language really would change your life...
1. Cognitive benefits
Our brain is like a muscle. In order to strengthen it, we need to exercise it. Learning a foreign language is an excellent mental exercise, because it allows us to think in a different way. Through learning a language, you learn new vocabulary and new grammatical structures. This in turn has been shown to greatly improve problem-solving skills, decision-making skills and overall memory. So if you want a sharper than Inception memory, learning a language is the way to go!
2. Social benefits
Learning a language reaps many rewards socially. If you sign up to a language course, you will integrate with like-minded people who have the same interest as you i.e. a shared passion for a foreign language. This environment is the perfect place to practice and show off your fancy new lingo skills with your new social circle. Over time, speaking in a different language not only enhances your communication skills but it also boosts your confidence. Amazing!
3. Experience a new culture
Any language you decide to learn automatically gives you access to its culture and history. For example, I am a speaker of German, and I have learnt all about Germany's traditional Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas markets). The best- and arguably most appealing- aspect of a language is learning about the food & drink culture. If you go abroad, use your practiced-to-death menu knowledge, so that you can order confidently and sophisticatedly. If you are going to Spain, order some Paella and Sangria. If you are going to Germany, order Currywurst and Glühwein. Whichever country in the world you decide to go to, try out the country's signature dishes and beverages, in true traditional fashion.
4. Career Prospects
Many of us are perpetually asked by relatives, friends, even strangers "...and what do you want to do after uni?", to which we often reply "I'm not sure yet!" and swiftly divert the topic. You will be glad to hear that speaking another language is hugely valued in all fields of work. This is a highly valued asset to any employer, particularly international companies. Knowing another language opens up many doors - including doors abroad!
5. Foreign language = a new cultural scene
If you learn a language, you could use it to discover your chosen country's film and literature classics, as well as discovering its art and music scene. Learning about key places, famous figures and historical events associated with your country is culturally enriching. Equally, learning about current affairs in a foreign language broadens your global knowledge.
6. Better understanding of own culture
When you learn a foreign language and its culture, you become more understanding of cultural similarities and differences between your native country and your country of destination. This is because you adapt to a new culture over time, and are then able to draw comparisons on your old lifestyle at home with your new lifestyle abroad. If you live abroad, even for a short-time, you become more open-minded.
7. Can study/ work abroad
This is probably the most popular reason as to why we learn a language; we can use our lingo skills to survive! Studying or working abroad means that you can make friends from all over the world. Living abroad provides us with novel life experiences, such as meeting new faces, seeing new places and taking part in new hobbies and cultural traditions. However, living abroad does throw you into the deep end, because you have to speak the language to get by. But this is where learning a language pays off! Being in the country itself is the best way to use your language skills, as there is certainly no shortage of native speakers to practice with!
8. Learning the lingo helps you stay safe whilst abroad
Learning key words and phrases can really go a long way if you are in trouble or in an emergency (learning words for 'help'/ 'taxi'/ 'ill'/ 'stolen' etc.), and learning politeness markers such as 'please', 'thank you' and 'sorry' will really help you get on in a country. Knowing or having quick access to these key words would greatly speed things up, so if you're not quite fluent, make sure you have a pocket dictionary on you at all times.
So, get learning the language you have always wanted to learn! Your linguistic knowledge of the language will be your most powerful tool in staying safe and getting on when you go abroad. Most importantly, learning a language would prevent any potential miscommunication issues with the locals. For further information on how to stay safe abroad, visit the Foreign & Commonwealth's 'Know Before You Go' Campaign online at: https://www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo and check out www.gov.uk/foreigntraveladvice to learn of any cultural sensitivities/laws/rules in your country of choice, before travelling, and you shouldn't go too far wrong!