Why Should We Learn More Languages?

Education Geek Culture
Image from Statista
Image from Statista

The world regards English to be the most useful second language. It follows that English is a great language for us to speak. As you can see above, English is where it’s at, as far as learning multiple languages go. This is a great reason to perfect the art of speaking English, but it comes with a second thought. Why are so many countries willing to learn English when Americans aren’t willing to return the favor?

As Americans, my family and I have seen the hype and hysteria regarding foreign languages. Attacks on President Obama and even an adorable eight-grader (both regarding Latin, the famously dead language), abound as American purists demand that America stay American. But what if foreign languages could make Americans smarter, and give them a leg up in foreign economies?

English is considered the most useful second language by most of the developed world, but what other languages can help Americans keep up in global business and relations? Thankfully, there’s a graphic for that.

Image from Statista
Image from Statista

According to polls, Western Europe values German most for personal development. How does “personal development” in Europe relate to Americans? I’m glad you asked. Being able to speak a second language opens doors. Your second language (and third) tells people about who you are. The ability to have friends, literature, websites, and even radio stations in other languages gives you the ability to connect to the world, in a way only matched by the Internet.

What about you, personally? What are your direct benefits? Let’s look at some benefits being discussed the the academic and medical worlds:

  • Multi-tasking skills are improved.
  • Polyglots (folks who speak more than one language) show improved decision making skills.
  • Higher learning potential unlocked.
  • Performance in other academic areas improve.
  • Flexible thinking and critical thinking skills broadened.
  • Improved writing and reading skills.

Studies have also shown links between learning other languages and delaying the effects of Alzheimer’s, a disease related to dementia. The verdict is still out on this one, but it can’t hurt to try, right?

As a parent, I believe whole-heartedly that I should take every opportunity to educate my children, and boost their academic potential, so foreign languages make the cut. Our daughter studies Spanish for now, as it is very practical in America. The rest of us study German, as it is so useful in our careers and personal lives.

If studying a non-American language puts you off, try the specifically American language: American Sign Language. ASL allows you to speak with the huge deaf population in America. It also has all the benefits of learning a “foreign” language, while improving your ability to communicate with other Americans.

In my life, I have used ASL, Spanish, English, a little Korean, and a little German to form relationships, friendships, and business connections. Do your research regarding your own needs, and consider: “What can another language do for me?”

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8 thoughts on “Why Should We Learn More Languages?

  1. As a ‘European’ (from the UK), I think the only really useful European language is Spanish. I learned French and German at school but apart from once or twice saying hello in each (and of course cursing) neither have had much use in the last 25+ years. Spanish which I largely taught myself (to the extent that I can speak it) is of course useful in Spain, but also much of South & Central America plus of course Mexico. Plus I think there are still parts of Africa that use Spanish as a 2nd/3rd language (following colonial rule). The only other language that would be really worth learning is Chinese for obvious reasons.

    1. What? No references here to Esperanto? Esperanto hasn’t yet gained the recognition it deserves, but, all things considered, it has actually done amazingly well. In 128 years, it has managed to grow from a drawing-board project with just one speaker in one country to a complete and living natural language with probably a couple of million speakers in over 120 countries and a rich literature and cosmopolitan culture, with little or no official backing and even bouts of persecution. It hasn’t taken the world by storm – yet – but it’s slowly but surely moving in that direction, with the Internet giving it a significant boost in recent years. Over 30,000 people have signed on for the new (beta) Duolingo Esperanto course in just three weeks.

  2. I think one of the advantages to having English as a primary language, is that it frees us up to pursue other languages for hobby reasons instead of just needing it to communicate to other people.

    For example, I’m fascinated with Latin, Finnish, Icelandic, and Scottish Gaelic. Many of those are not as useful as others for speaking to many people, but I’m very interested in the histories of these places. The development and ideas conveyed in a language can really help understand the people of those areas.

    Also, because Latin influenced so many languages, I can often find root words in a language I don’t know and still be able to get a simple understanding even without speaking the language. Highly useful!

  3. I chose to learn Japanese for two reasons. I had to learn some of it in college…
    There is a free trial at this site commonjargon.com

    AND that’s all. It may be kinda of a waste of time but I think everyone should try to learn at least one other language. I think it improves the way think.

  4. Everyone should learn another language, and the english speakers too. This is why we have launched a new exchange student platform web http://www.linguorum.com. The student can go abroad for free because linguourum proposes to get in touch with students all around the world. Travel to their country, live with their family and in exchange offer them the same in your country. It’s about mutual hospitality.

  5. That’s very interesting. Thanks for sharing! I love languages. I’m learning French and Japanese at the moment. I was in Nice last year and I know for a fact that speaking even a little bit of French can make a huge difference! 🙂

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