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“Training your brain” is a very trendy concept right now, and there are lots ofgames out there that are supposed to keep you mentally limber. Languagelearning exercises your brain too, and studies have shown that it may even helpprevent Alzheimer’s.Not only that, but you come away with the added benefit of a useful life skill,something that most brain games cannot give you.
Even if you never use it, being able to list fluency in more than one language onyour resume is valuable. And of course, for jobs that do require the use of thatlanguage, you have a decided advantage over a sizeable chunk of the population.Even if you don’t expect that learning Spanish will boost your career directly, it’llprobably come in handy at some point in ways you can’t foresee.
One of the biggest benefits to language learning is a greater understanding ofother cultures and customs. Being a better global citizen isn’t just a feel-goodideal; it’s a responsibility shared by us all, and one that especially Englishspeakers in the United States could do a better job at. Other parts of the worldare far more multilingual than we are, and though that is often out of necessity,it comes with a broader cultural understanding.Another element of being a global citizen is exploring your own family heritage.If you are a descendant of Irish ancestors, learning about Irish language andculture has special significance.
We live in a world where a great many things are translated, but not everything.“You’ve not experienced Shakespeare until you have read it in the originalKlingon…” as they say. Reading works of literature in their original language canbe immensely rewarding. Even being able to flip through a popular magazine ortrade journal and read articles in a language other than English has great value,especially if the material has not been translated. Plus, you may find a wholenew world of entertainment when you start exploring foreign language TV,music, and movies!An article on the Wall Street Journal recently reported that many heavy metalfans learn Norwegian and Finnish to better appreciate song lyrics by Nordicbands like Hevibändi and Korpiklaani.
It’s a lot cooler to say “Bon chance!” than “Good luck!”, even if that happens tobe one of a scant number of French phrases in your repertoire. And if you havethe correct accent and pronunciation down, bonus points! Foreign accentsrepresent something new (and literally “foreign”) to our mind, so we are wiredto find an accent other than our own to be more interesting.Many people like to train their pets to respond to foreign language commands.This is usually done for fun, but police dogs are often trained in foreign languageso that only their handlers know important commands.A foreign language can also serve as a cool, not-so-secret code - study Spanishalong with your spouse, and you can talk about things you don’t want yourchildren to overhear… at least, until the kids start picking up on the keyvocabulary!
Most high schools and colleges have a language requirement. Depending onwhere you are in your education, getting a jump-start on those requirements canmake school easier.You may even be able to test out of the entry-level language courses in college.That leaves you with open slots in your schedule, for more advanced languagecourses… or for something totally different you wouldn’t otherwise have had thetime for.
You really don’t need to be fluent in a foreign language to benefit from using iton a vacation to another country. Knowing just a handful of Italian survivalphrases will get you through the streets of Rome more effectively than you mightthink.Even if you don’t have the accent quite right, or the sentence structure, or aremissing a word here and there, it is a sign of respect to speak the language inanother country, even if everyone you encounter probably knows a good amountof English. It’ll also make road signs and warnings a little less scary.
Learning anything new gives you a feeling of confidence and accomplishment,and learning a new language is no exception. Plus, languages themselves can beboth fascinating and fun!You may even find that once you’ve learned one, you want to keep going andlearn another. The next time around will be easier, because not only did youlearn a new language… you also learned HOW to learn language effectively as anadult (a totally different ballgame than learning your first language, as a child).Maybe you’ll reveal that inner polyglot superpower you never knew you had!
Turns out, learning a foreign language makes you focus on grammar and analysisthat make you better in your native language, too. Many students have reportedfinally understanding a grammar rule in their native language through learning itas part of a new language. Focus on learning how to express yourself in a foreignlanguage also makes you more cognizant about expressing yourself in general.
Through learning a new language, you will open doors of many kinds. You’ll meetothers just like you, working on learning, as well as native speakers from parts ofthe world you may never have visited, or indeed, may never visit.One surmounted language barrier can lead to a richer life, and to friends you’dnever have met otherwise. So much of life these days is about networking… whoknows where your new connections might lead?
1. Feed your brain2. Boost your career3. Be a global citizen4. Unlock knowledge5. It’s just cooler6. Fill school requirements7. Travel to exotic places!8. Build confidence9. Improve your native language10. Make new friendsImage by chrisflorence via Flickr
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