The Importance of Studying a Foreign Language
Being born into a bilingual family, I have never thought about how beneficial it could be to speak another language. My parents did a great job creating an environment that helped me learn two languages easily. At the age of five I started learning my third language, and by the age of eight I could read, write, and speak in three languages: Ukrainian, Russian and English. During my university years I started learning two more foreign languages (French and German), and I faced the reality that learning complex languages can be very challenging. It can be difficult to comprehend varying verb conjugation, genders, and bizarre numeric systems. I’m still trying to understand why seventy-five is pronounced as “sixty and fifteen” in French.
Since I was introduced to the English language in my childhood, I realized that there are many similarities in European languages. The main difference was the pronunciation which took me only a month to get used to it. Then I was just expanding my vocabulary and practicing my grammar and pronunciation. I made friends with people from other countries; I started to enjoy traveling and learning new cultures. Ten years after graduation from college, I am still learning new languages because it is not only beneficial for my profession and the development of my personality, but also it is interesting and exciting. It is essential to know all the benefits that second language learning can bring into your lives.
Get Cognitive Benefits
Learning a foreign language has many cognitive benefits. Students who spend time learning any foreign language can quickly improve their grades on other subjects. “Research has shown that foreign language study in the early elementary years improves cognitive abilities, positively influences achievement in other disciplines, and results in higher achievement test scores in reading and math” (Stewart). In other words, regular training of your memory when learning new words and collocations can help develop new connections in your brains and result in scoring higher on tests.
Another advantage of learning a foreign language can be in developing problem-solving skills. When a student learns to find the necessary verb form or to conjugate it correctly in different tenses, he is performing many micro problem-solving steps on the way to the final goal – to make up a sentence that will sound correct in a foreign language. “The positive relationship seen between bilingualism and social problem solving further strengthens the research in the area of the positive advantages of bilingualism.” (Stephens). Learning a second language can be challenging, but as a result, it will increase your chances of becoming a top student and developing the skills necessary for a successful career and life.
Gain A Competitive Edge
Another benefit of speaking more than one language is the opportunity to get a better paying job. We live in a world with a rapidly developing global economy where communication with partners and clients from other countries is becoming a daily routine. A business may look for opportunities to expand its clientele beyond its own country. After graduating from college, individuals face a global job market full of more experienced specialists and professionals with various skill sets.
This is the moment when the knowledge of a foreign language can be crucial. The modern employer will likely prefer a bilingual worker to a monolingual prospect. Health care, journalism, the military, marketing, communication, and social service all need bilingual workers. “An employer will see you as a bridge to new clients or customers if you know a second language. You are also more likely to win the trust and friendship of people whose languages you know – even if you know them just a little” (WSU).
Foreign Language Learning as a Source of Pleasure and Surprise
Finally, being bilingual can make your life more interesting. With continually improving technologies, you can find that learning a second language is easier than you think. There are different applications that allow the user to learn sets of vocabulary using flashcards, interactive exercises and games. There is no need to struggle reading long and boring vocabulary or grammar reference books. Short video tutorials can help you understand any piece of grammar quickly. There is no doubt that it is not only saving your time but also makes learning a language easy and available to anybody anywhere. When you master a second language you will find more pleasure in travelling and communication.
Today, people are looking for an opportunity to communicate more, to send messages instantly and to make friends with people of different cultural backgrounds; but sometimes not knowing the cultural differences can lead to unexpected consequences. For example, North Americans give a direct eye contact when speaking with another person as a sign of showing respect. On the contrary, when you talk to Asians, you have to avoid direct eye contact because it can be interpreted as disrespectful. When you learn a foreign language, you should also learn the foreign culture. This will help you understand the foundations of their culture and why they do this and never do that. “Get an insider view of another culture and a new view of your own can be a source of pleasure and surprise. Learning about other cultures will help you expand your personal horizons and become a responsible citizen” (WSU).
Being a teacher of foreign languages, I can say that I have never stopped learning. Each language has its own grammar system, rules, and idioms. It is like a living organism that always changes and evolves. You have to keep learning new things to not fall behind. Learning a language can give you an opportunity to see the world and life from a different perspective. And living in this new world makes you feel excited, surprised, and sometimes overwhelmed with the treasure you can find. So which language should you learn? “There is no one answer. Whatever language you choose, learning it will make a difference in how you see the world and in how the world sees you” (WSU).
Stephens, Mary Ann Advisor: Esquivel, Giselle B. (1997). Bilingualism, creativity, and social problem-solving.
Stewart, J. H. (2005). Foreign language study in elementary schools: Benefits and implications for achievement in reading and math. Early Childhood Education Journal, 33(1), 11-16
Washington State University. 10 January 2018. Why study foreign languages? Retrieved from https://forlang.wsu.edu/academics/why-study-foreign-languages/