Everyone always says that learning a foreign language is important and will enrich your life. Of course there are the obvious reasons for studying a language, such as enabling you to travel more easily or helping you advance in your career. But what are the benefits of learning a language beyond this?
1. You will become smarter
It has been proven in many studies that learning a foreign language actually helps you become smarter. Scientists have long known that the brain is a muscle like any other – if you use it more often, it will become stronger. The process of learning a new language – learning new grammar patterns, memorizing vocabulary, and learning to switch back and forth between languages – has been shown to be one of the best known exercises for your brain. Some of the proven beneficial results include a better memory, better multi-tasking skills, and a longer attention span.
2. You will also seem smarter
Not only will you become smarter, but you’ll also seem smarter. While it may be superficial, knowing a foreign language is often seen as a sign of intelligence. Especially in countries where most people only speak their native language, such as the United States, being able to proudly proclaim that you know Spanish or can speak Mandarin can add significantly to your image in social situations and endow you with a certain cultural cachet. And even if the language you speak doesn’t have any connection to your career, showing a potential employer that you can speak a foreign language is an effective way to show that you know how to use your brain.
3. It will help stave off Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia
Recent studies have shown that knowing more than one language significantly decreases your chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia later in life. When you know two languages, your brain has to constantly decide which language to think and speak in. This process of switching back and forth increases your brain’s strength in a way that work as a natural resistance to these debilitating cognitive diseases.
4. You will gain insights into other cultures (and your own)
Using a language when traveling is about much more than ordering another glass of wine or asking how to get to the bus station. In speaking with people from another country in their own language, you are able to immerse yourself in the culture of that country in a way you could never do otherwise, broadening your mind in a way you never could have expected. In our increasingly globalized world, being able to understand and appreciate differences in cultures is critically important. Additionally, in learning about other cultures you gain a much more complex and nuanced understandings of your own culture.
5. You will understand your native language better
Not only will you better understand your own culture, but you will also better understand your native language. Learning a foreign language for the first time will open up your eyes to the grammar and nature of your own language that you never knew. You’ll recognize patterns and structures that you’ve used since childhood as auxilary verbs, the present progress, or the subjunctive. Far beyond simply being interesting, this will greatly improve your abilities in your native language and help with that whole “looking smart” thing.