What does ‘study a foreign language’ mean?
Nowadays, more and more people speak at least two languages; it is not an ephemeral trend but an essential way in our changing world. Everything (from people to information) is closer and closer connected thanks to Internet but also thanks to our ability to move and our ever growing desire of knowledge.
Studying a foreign language can be boring (especially in French schools). When you are young, you do not care about English, French, German, Spanish etc, you only know that you are waiting for the break whereas your teacher is trying to obtain from you a word in that incomprehensible language! When you grow up, you begin to understand why knowing a foreign language could be interesting: for egocentric people , it is a way to speak about themselves “I can speak English, Spanish, Chinese blablabla” ; for adventurers, it is a way to communicate with locals; etc.
Firstly, the main aim of studying a language is communication. Human beings love to communicate, to tell their stories and adventures, to slander, to share knowledge… Then language is closely linked to culture, so learning a foreign language also means learning about a foreign culture. And learning more about another culture will make you more open-minded, more able to critic, to compare, to understand people. In our current world there are at least 6,700 different languages with their own history. This means 6,700 ways to communicate but most of us do not speak these 6,700 languages and lot of people speak only one language. In accordance to that knowing only one language seems to make you narrow-minded.
Ten reasons to learn a foreign language
1. To increase your understanding
According to Federico Fellini, an Italian film director, “A different language is a different vision of life.” And he is right! Learning a foreign language will open your mind to another culture. Maybe you will not search to learn more about this other culture but no matter it will increase your memory capacities.
2. To improve career chances
Did you know that around 52% of Europeans can speak two languages fluently whereas only 9% of Americans can? It means that Americans can only work with countries or people speaking their language but also their adaptability in other countries is limited: how can they understand other people if they cannot speak their language and therefore their culture. To know foreign languages does not mean only that you can help your company to trade but also that you are clever or open-minded.
3. To increase native language ability
”Those who know nothing of foreign languages, knows nothing of their own.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said. How could you say your language is the most beautiful if you cannot compare it with others? Moreover learn a foreign grammar will make you more awake about the one of your own language.
4. To sharpen cognitive and life skills
Richard Riley, a former US Secretary could say that “We have strong evidence today that studying a foreign language has a ripple effect, helping to improve student performance in other subjects.” To know different languages improves and encourages critical reflection, you have two words with a same meaning, it makes you aware of the outside world. It forces you to open your mind.
5. To improve chances to get into college or university
Nowadays it is almost unthinkable to speak only one language; if you want to study you need to know at least two languages. Moreover, the more languages you know more it shows your willingness to communicate, your intellectual capacities for example.
6. To appreciate international literature, music, and film
Movies, books, music everything can be translated. But, unfortunately, when you read poetry, a translation will not give you the exactly feeling, the jokes in the pronunciation etc. Can you understand the sarcastic tone of Oscar Wilde in German as good as in English? I do not think so. How much gets lost in translation? Even in movies, translations are often bad and when you are watching a movie in English with subtitles in your language it is easy to note the differences of meaning.
7. To make travel more feasible and enjoyable
When you go to another country it is not only to visit but also to discover the peoples culture. To know their language will make you able to talk with them and so to know and understand this foreign culture better. And if you are lost (especially in the countryside) it is better to know the native’s language or at least have the basics down.
8. To expand study abroad options
Obvious reason, you might think. But do you know that in Germany, in France, in Italy etc more and more universities offer classes in English and so people could think that with English they can go everywhere. I agree for universities but not for the daily life.
9. To increase understanding of yourself and your own culture
Knowing another language and another culture gives you the opportunity of having an outside perspective about you and your culture. It will make you multicultural and give you a new view, a new way to see yourself.
10. To make lifelong friends
“The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway.” Henry Boye said. Wa all like to have ‘foreign’ friends, we learn so much from them. But how could you have them if you cannot speak with them.
Thus, studying a foreign language it is not only learning about others or giving you more opportunities for your future but also learning about you.