This week’s guest blog post was shared by Marie. She is a friend of mine from France, who is currently studying abroad in San Diego. Here are her thoughts on why you should learn a foreign language and her 10 best arguments to do so.
Why Should You Learn a Foreign Language?
Nowadays, more and more people speak at least two languages and many kids in school learn a foreign language; 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.
But to learn a foreign language can be boring and tedious. 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 to learn a foreign 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 why you should 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. When you decide to learn a foreign language, it not only means that you can help your company to trade internationally, but also that you are clever and 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 said 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; In France, if you want to study at the university, 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. When you learn a foreign language, you have nothing to lose, but so much to gain.
BRAVA!! what a great list. and SO very important, for all those reasons.
for myself, i learn best when immersed.
.-= jessiev´s last blog ..Photo of the Week April 5, 2010: Coming and Going =-.
I agree 100%! Even learning some very basic conversational language opens doors to another culture and interacting with local people. Languages are fun and on the inside loop of another culture is a wonderful feeling.
Thank you for sharing your informationon reasons to take a foreign language. I think you are 100% correct . I took 2 years of Spanish but wish I had taken more for many reasons. I am currently a school nursing supervisor.I have a couple of questions and would love some feedback. Right now, in this diverse population, it can be difficult at times to communicate a medical need or concern about a student with the parent when they don’t speak English. I try to be most compassionate and understanding but sometimes the parent still does not understand and I become frustrated. Even though I am a nurse in a school setting, I am ultimately teaching parents and students about medical problems, good handwashing,and so on. How do you handle this when you are in this situation where you have a point to get across and it just isn’t happening? I look forward to any responses.
Hello Lisa, thank you for your comment. I think you also have to keep in mind the differences in culture, not only the language barrier when dealing with someone from abroad. Like you mentioned in your comment on my blog post on What is culture, it is very important to take cultural differences into consideration. Only if you understand that what you think is “normal” might not be normal in another culture, you might find a way to communicate effectively, which means, not talking down on them, but understanding their point of view. I can truly feel that this can be hard and difficult sometimes, yes, even very frustrating. May be it helps if you ask them how they do it, and also try to ask them how they do certain things, take nothing for granted and explain everything, even if you think it is common sense. I truly hope this helps!
Super great writing! Truely.
Thank you so much Maria for getting back to me and I am sorry it took so long to write back. I think that is an awesome idea to ask parents, how and why they do what they do for illnesses, infections, and so on. I might even learn something new from them when I am the one trying to do the teaching. Being open minded is truly important and that is how I like to approach each new day. I appreciate your comments. They truly helped a lot.
I think studying foreign languages will widen your horizon… career, and friends. And the magic word is to understand better the world. I love how you presented this topic. I have seen a few other internet sites with similar content but no one has done a better job than you on writing about it. Great job and keep up the good work.
Master a foreign language is extra skill to help stand out of the modern competitive environment. If you find it is really hard to learn the foreign language by yourself, I recommend you can use the rosetta stone software (http://www.Rosettastone-languages.com/) to assist you to study the foreign languages.
Thanks for the great read. Keep it up!
Could not agree more with all 10 reasons you listed! The biggest one for me is the edge that it gives you in your career! We are approaching a world where it is absolutely necessary to know more than one language.
As someone who has studied Spanish for years and still struggles, I couldn’t agree more with your reasons to learn a foreign language. Even though I’ve still got a long way to go even the basics of Spanish are a huge help when travelling.
great post! Living abroad myself, I think it is the least you can do. It is amazing how differently you are treated when you speak the local language. you are not a tourist anymore and it makes all the difference, even if you don’t master it!
Hi Maria, thanks for sharing this again! What a great and motivating list, it was exactly what I needed right now to close Facebook and do my Finnish homework 😀
Even though almost everybody speaks well English in Finland and Finnish is not necessarily needed in all-days life it never occurred to me to not try to learn the language. The longer I’m here the more I realize that I will never truly be part of the society without speaking Finnish at least at basic level. However, with Finnish being one of the most difficult languages in the world to even be able to hold small talk conversations requires a lot of willpower and patients – but that’s another subject 😉
Greetings from Tampere,
Love this. I mean, you can learn a language at any point. I think your point about Europeans is so true and I’m always in awe of my European friends for just knowing FIVE languages. I’m a bit jealous working on my 1.5 😉 Someday!
Great points! Learning another language is great for so many different aspects of your life! I hope to work more on that this summer 🙂
Great list and you’re absolutely right about all of them. If I may, I think relearning a language you have forgotten would be good too. For example, relearning Vietnamese so you don’t lose that part of you 🙂
Great points! If I had children, I would have had them learn another language early on. It opens so many doors for you and knowing the roots of any language is a history lesson in disguise.
I just come across your blog today , After reading the whole post I can say that this blog is quite interesting.
Also ,learning a foreign language opens you up to a world of opportunities both abroad and at home.
Banks, technology companies, consulting firms, international trading firms, and educational institutions around the world .Also people who knows foreign language will get well-paying jobs .This is the best advantage of learning a foreign.
Thank you so much for sharing your great ideas.
Keep doing good work ..God Bless U!!
Great tips, will keep them in mind next time!
I tried to learn French, actually it was easy to learn. But when I tried to learn TCM it was really difficult to learn Chinese. Still I can’t pronounce those words.
a well-detailed list 🙂 learning a new language gives you that sense of fulfillment, plus several career opportunities and the fun part is meeting new people.
Thanks for mentioning that learning a second language can help you show employers that you are open-minded. My wife is interested in working as a lawyer and would like to ensure that she can be employed by a variety of different clients. I wonder if there are any resources that could help her memorize and learn a new language.