Two of my favorite teachers growing up have given and shaped one of my greatest passions. Herr Zydzik and Madam Hicks, my high school German teacher and college French professor, made learning a language FUN. They not only gave me a love of learning other languages, but they increased my passion for other cultures and continuous learning. Since America isn’t quite up to par with Europe when it comes to citizens knowing multiple languages, I’ve always tried to encourage anyone to take up a second language. If you get the right teacher who is passionate about what they do… anything is possible.
Here are three main reasons to learn a foreign language:
1. Brain Boosting Powers!
Yes.. you read that correctly. Learning another language gives your brain a boost! Learning a second language exercises and challenges your brain in more ways than one. While learning grammar and the sentence structure boosts your problem solving and decision making skills, the process of switching between two or more languages increases your multitasking skills.
Becoming bilingual also boosts your creativity. This goes hand in hand with problem solving; when speaking in a language you’re unfamiliar with, you’re constantly thinking of various words to convey what you’re thinking in your original language. If you don’t know or cannot remember a word, you have to think of ways to reword the sentence. It’s difficult at first, but becomes easier as you go along. I’ve taken French a few years AFTER taking German, and this really pushed my problem solving skills to the next level. The sentence structure between these two languages is incredibly different, and when I would attempt to answer Madam Hicks in French….my brain had to dig through 2+ years of learning German. (I even answered in German on my last final because of a massive brain fart….. Je suis désolée, Madam Hicks!) It was an extreme challenge, and consistently getting sentences wrong online was frustrating. It took me quite some time to realize I was structuring French words into a German based sentence.
You become a better listener, thus better overall at learning new things by being bilingual. You are constantly listening for the different sounds in another language to learn correct pronunciation. Research has also shown that bilingualism delays Alzheimer’s and dementia by years. In this study, the bilingual patients had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s FOUR YEARS later than monolingual patients. In this study, learning a foreign language increases the hippocampus in your brain – this is the section that’s responsible for storing and organizing memories. My grandfather suffers from dementia, so this is very exciting on a personal level. To my mother… keep studying your Spanish!
2. Become More Disciplined
I’ve realized that with learning a new language, you become more disciplined. If you have taken a foreign language course, whether it was a choice or not, you will know that learning another language is HARD, especially if you did not grow up learning it. Besides remembering vocabulary, there’s grammar and general sentence structure you need to watch out for. Granted, English and Mandarin are the top two difficult languages to learn (along with Polish so I’ve heard). If you truly want to learn the language, it takes some discipline. You have to designate time to read the book, finish the online programs and worksheets, and most importantly SPEAK IT. If you don’t get it the first or the fifth time, you keep practicing. Through learning a second language, you really get a stronger grasp on self discipline which can help you further in life.
3. Expand Your Perspective on Life
If those two main reasons did not convince you, I hope this one will! Learning languages really increased my love of other cultures and wanting to experience how they live. In any language course, you also learn how they live their daily life. In my college French course, I learned dinner parties are a very popular way for a group of friends to spend time. Nothing fancy that you’d see on TV, but in a casual intimate setting. My professor explained it’s much to expensive to go out to eat as often as Americans tend to do. Because grammar and sentence structure is different for every language, it shows how people speak to each other. In Spanish, French, and German, they have formal and informal “you” when addressing someone. In Germany, you mostly address everyone with the formal “you” except for those you know extremely well (i.e. friends and family you’ve known for a majority of your life). Because of this, any simple translation device will automatically use the formal you, “Sie,” instead of the informal “du.” It’s simply a matter of respect.
Learning a foreign language can expand your world view, thus limiting barriers. It overall creates a more positive attitude towards others who have a different background. It also opens the door to art, music, dance, fashion, film, and more from that culture. Even if you can’t speak the language fluently, you’ve opened doors to another fantastic culture and fabulous group of people that you can learn about and create a relationship with. If you’re a fan of travel like me, you never know who you could meet and what can develop from a door like that.
Has learning a new language been on your mind for a while now? What’s holding you back? Get those coveted brain boosting powers!