It’s National World Language Week from March 6 to 12, so what better time to celebrate the many benefits of learning languages? Somewhere between 350 and 430 languages are spoken in the USA. Despite this impressive diversity, however, around 78% of Americans speak only English at home. If you are part of that 78%, now is a great time to begin learning another language. It’s not too late to get started! Here are just a few reasons to learn a second (or third!) language!
Connect with your community
How many of those 350+ languages are people speaking in your community right now? Communicating well with your neighbors can create lasting bonds and build a stronger sense of community. For instance, the USA is home to the second-highest number of Spanish speakers of any country in the world. Incredibly, that's even more than Spain– only Mexico can boast more Spanish speakers. Those numbers are growing fast. If you want to help out a neighbor, attend a local community event, ask for or give directions, or provide assistance in the event of an emergency, Spanish skills could come in handy! You might even make life-long friends.
Spanish certainly is not the only language increasing in popularity. Your community may be home to many speakers of Mandarin or Cantonese, French, Korean, Arabic, Tagalog, or another language. Even beginner-level skills can get you a long way in forging bonds with your neighbors.
Thrive in your career
So many companies want to hire people who speak more than one language! You don’t need to be totally fluent for language skills to pay off in the workplace. As it becomes more common for businesses to establish offices or sell products in other countries, knowing a second language can go a long way. Beyond the typical careers like language teachers and interpreters, speakers of two or more languages have an advantage in jobs requiring international travel or communication. That could include government positions, sales careers, and entertainment jobs. Speaking another language may mean more opportunities to go on interesting business trips or take part in important projects.
Learning another language is also useful in careers that work with the community. Social workers, teachers, doctors, or lawyers who know a little of another language can communicate more effectively with those they serve. And if you're bilingual? Studies show that bilingual students earn over $67,000 more over the course of a lifetime than classmates who only speak one language!
Boost your brain
Learning a new language alters your brain– for the better! Like any muscle, the brain needs to be challenged and exercised to perform its best. You’ll notice some changes after just a few months of learning another language. Studies show that adults who studied a new language showed similar results to those using a brain-training program: better working memory and executive function.
You may have heard the myth that our brains can no longer grow and change after childhood. In reality, they can create new connections and develop well into adulthood. Our brains' language centers are especially flexible. Exercising them can increase our abilities to switch between tasks and focus on problems, just as we switch between languages. Forget Sudoku and crossword puzzles! Learning another language is a fantastic way to stay sharp even as we enter our senior years!
Take the best vacation ever!
If you dream of sitting in a Paris street café or lying on the beach in Mexico, learning a new language can motivate you to make that dream come true! While you save for your dream vacation, practicing a language is a terrific way to prepare for the trip. Speaking with locals in their own languages will help you enjoy a much more interesting vacation. You won’t have to stick to a touristy bubble or interact solely through bilingual tour guides. Speaking the local language means more freedom and adventure!
Even if you’re traveling to a country where many people speak English, learning the language can still improve your experience. You’ll be able to read signs in streets and museums, you'll know how and what to order restaurants, you’ll be able to understand signage in museums, and it'll be so much easier to find your way around. For example, most Germans speak some English, but here's one situation where knowing a little German was very useful. On a visit to the Berlin Zoo, a family of American tourists leaned close to the tiger enclosure, trying to snap a picture of the animals. Another tourist pointed out a nearby sign, translating to, “Stay away from the tiger. He sprays.” Only then did the family notice the wet stains on the floor outside the tiger cage– right where they’d been standing! They were lucky to have crossed paths with a German speaker, or they could have experienced an unpleasant surprise!
Find a new favorite movie or show!
The hit South Korean film Parasite made headlines as the first non-English film to win “Best Picture” at the 2020 Academy Awards. At the time, Director Bong Joon-Ho said, “Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” You can enjoy even more movies, shows, and songs if you understand the language, too. Even if you know just a little bit of the language and still use subtitles, your knowledge will help bring out the subtleties of what's being said. Parasite is only one piece of Korean media that’s entered into mainstream pop culture in the USA. K-Pop is topping the charts, and Squid Game dominated Netflix last year. But there has been some controversy surrounding the subtitles in Squid Game. It turns out that people who speak Korean may have a more authentic experience thanks to some less-than-accurate English translations.
This year’s Academy Award-nominated films include the Japanese film Drive My Car and West Side Story, which included untranslated Spanish dialogue. A Spanish language song from the Disney movie Encanto, “Dos Oruguitas,” was nominated for Best Song. In our increasingly global society, there will always be more popular non-English media to enjoy! Don't miss out!
Connect with your heritage!
Like we said earlier, about 78% of Americans speak only English at home. This may come as a surprise because the USA is such a diverse country. Most of us have ancestors from only a few generations ago who spoke English as a second or third language. Many emigrated from other countries and believed learning English would help them fit in their neighbors, choosing not to teach their first languages to their children. At the time, many experts believed knowing multiple languages was a disadvantage for children and encouraged speaking English only in the home. We now know that’s not true.
In our current era of DNA tests like 23andMe, many of us feel an impulse toward discovering our heritage. Recently discovered that your great-great-grandfather emigrated from Russia? Still have living relatives who primarily speak Japanese and want to forge a connection to them? Found that your family's prized recipes are all written entirely in Italian? It’s the perfect opportunity to learn another language!
Are you ready to take the first step toward learning a new language? Fluent City offers online language classes for adults in Spanish, French, Italian, Arabic, Portuguese, German, Chinese, Russian, Hebrew, and English! Students can choose between individual or group classes to meet their unique needs. If your kids also want to learn another language, NeuLingo provides virtual Mandarin lessons to school-age children. We can’t wait to see the transformations in your life when you learn a new language!