Aside from our worship of a cuppa and our dedication to the art of queuing, a shameful monolingualism is perhaps the most prevailing stereotype associated with being British.
Indeed, language learning has always represented something of a hurdle for us Brits, comprende? Perhaps it’s complacency, as we work on the assumption that everyone, everywhere will have a grasp of English. Or, maybe it’s that language learning isn’t imbued with the utmost importance at school. Or, is it just our love of gesturing and pointing that holds us back?
Joking aside (the famed British humour in full force, there), it seems that us Brits are condemning ourselves to leading rather inward lives, with the rich tapestry of experience just an evening class of Italian away.
The facts don’t lie; as the Conversation reports, “a recent survey co-ordinated by the European Commission found that 80% of European 15-30 year olds can read and write in at least one foreign language. This number drops to only 32% amongst British 15-30 year olds”.
Perhaps you know where we’re going with this one…
Did you know that learning a new language has many benefits? In addition to gaining fluency in another tongue, you can also expect to see improvements in your cognitive abilities, job prospects, and cultural awareness. And who wouldn’t want that?
So, if you’re looking for a way to improve your life in myriad, unexpected ways, here’s why everyone should learn a second language.
“To acquire another language is to open yourself up to the world and to increase vastly your employability”, pitched the Guardian back in 2012, and not much has changed since then (even though so much around us has).
We couldn’t agree more. Indeed, in today’s global economy, being bilingual or multilingual is a valuable skill that can give you a competitive edge in the job market. Increasingly, employers are looking for candidates who can communicate effectively with customers and clients from different cultures, so if you’re looking to improve your job prospects, learning a new language is a great way to do it.
No matter what industry you’re in, being able to speak another language can be a valuable asset. For instance, if you’re in the medical field and work in America, being able to communicate with Spanish-speaking patients can be extremely helpful. Or, if you’re in the customer service industry, being able to serve customers in their native language can lead to better satisfaction rates.
Additionally, being able to speak another language can also open up opportunities to work abroad. If you’re interested in working in a foreign country, learning the local language will make it much easier to find a job and adjust to life in your new home. As the folk behind al-kunuz.com/en state, immersion is the most effective language learning technique, helping learners develop their speaking and comprehension skills, in particular, much quicker than when learning remotely or via an app.
Improved Cognitive Abilities
Studies have shown that learning a new language can improve your cognitive abilities, too, with bilingualism linked with improved executive function skills, such as multitasking, problem-solving, creativity, and decision-making, in particular.
In addition, many experts believe that being bilingual can help delay the onset of dementia and other age-related cognitive declines. So, if you’re looking for a way to boost your brainpower, learning a second language is a great option.
But that’s not all; being bilingual has also been associated with a greater sense of empathy and a broader global mindset. Which brings us to…
Greater Cultural Awareness
Learning a new language can also help you become more culturally aware. By understanding another culture’s language, you can gain a better understanding of their customs and values, which are often inextricably linked. This can help you become more tolerant and open-minded, and appreciate the beauty of diversity.
A particularly interesting school of thought on the subject is the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which suggests that the very structure of different languages can influence their speaker’s thoughts and actions. By learning a second language intricately, it could be said that you gain an extra insight into the culture who speaks it.
Fascinating stuff, indeed.
Improved Communication Skills
Learning a new language can also help you improve your communication skills, both in the language you’re learning and in your mother tongue. This is because you’ll need to learn how to express yourself in a different way, using different words and grammatical rules. As a result, you’ll become more articulate and better able to communicate your thoughts and ideas, considering more carefully both the structure and the meaning in everything you say.
As the Oxford University Press reports, when we’re learning a second language, ‘’we start to focus on the mechanics of a second language: grammar, conjugations and sentence structure, our awareness of our L1 improves. These transferable skills give bilingual students a greater insight into their mother tongue, thus making them more effective communicators as well as better writers.’’
Improved Mental Health
Finally, learning a new language can also lead to improved mental health, with bilingualism linked to reduced stress levels in children and increased psychological well-being in later life, too.
Additionally, as we mentioned earlier, many experts believe that being bilingual can help delay the onset of dementia and other age-related cognitive declines. Incredibly, it was reported by CNN in 2020 that ‘’bilinguals are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease four to five years later than their monolingual counterparts’’, and these positive effects on the brain and mental health are only more emphasised the longer you’ve been bilingual. Best get learning that second language today!
The Bottom Line
There are so many benefits to learning an additional language. Doing so can enhance your travel experience and broaden your mind – not to mention, it’s an impressive skill to have and one that is valued by employers.
Countless studies have suggested that learning a new language can improve cognition, memory and multitasking ability, as well as improving your career prospects and social skills.
It’s never too late to start, so why not head over to our article on tips for learning a new language fast online and begin on your journey to bilingual fluency today!