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.
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?”