Having knowledge of one or more foreign languages is increasingly important in today’s society. Instead of being tongue-tied, here’s why you should learn:
1. When you’re looking for a job
One of the main advantages of studying a foreign language is that it looks excellent on a CV. For a start, when applying for jobs and attending job interviews, it demonstrates to a prospective employer that you have a willingness and ability to learn, and will make the most of the opportunities the job will provide. Moreover, when applying for particular areas of work it can be especially useful. Knowledge of foreign languages for jobs in the hospitality sector, for example, allows you to communicate better with foreign guests in hotels and restaurants.
2. For your long-term career prospects
Learning foreign languages doesn’t just improve a person’s CV. It also helps in the long run with where they can send it; languages really can open the doors to a huge variety of employment opportunities. Even within one sector — for instance, education — jobs open to those with foreign language skills can range from teaching English as a foreign language, to teaching the foreign language itself.
Another great possibility, given the necessary qualifications, is working abroad. Here too the range of opportunities is vast; be it retail, hospitality, or something other. In particular, employment within the travel and tourism sector is a popular choice for people with knowledge of foreign languages. Facilitated too, are jobs abroad in the media; as an editor, foreign affairs writer, or foreign correspondent, for example.
3. To build your skills
Communication skills are greatly enhanced by studying foreign languages. Not only does the ability to speak another language strengthen your written and spoken communication skills, but it also improves your listening skills. Similarly, learning a foreign language improves your knowledge of your native language. This is because learning a language draws your focus to the mechanics of language; its grammar, sentence structure and formation, and tenses. Learning foreign languages leads to, overall, an increased awareness of the ways in which all languages can be structured and manipulated.
4. For your cognitive health
Often overlooked is that learning one or more foreign languages can have health advantages too. These benefits can include an improvement in your memory, as well as becoming more perceptive of your surroundings and the behaviour of others.
5. To increase cultural knowledge
When learning a foreign language, not only is the learner studying the language itself, but they are also learning about the culture of the country in which that language is primarily spoken. Increasing your cultural knowledge, in turn, can encourage you to keep studying your new language. This cultural aspect helps bring language to life; relating it to others and imbuing it with lasting meaning. In fact, developing a deep interest in the culture of your studied language might well encourage you to travel abroad and experience it first-hand. This can also maintain your interest in learning, as such experiences often provide excellent opportunities to practice speaking languages with local, native speakers.
6. To begin the cycle of language learning
Having knowledge of one foreign language makes it easier to learn another language, if desired, later on in life. After all, you will have already developed the skills required for learning a foreign language, something that can easily be applied when learning more languages. Moreover, the learning structure is often very similar from one language to the next.
From my own experience of learning foreign languages, this cycle can be deeply rewarding. I enjoyed studying French at GCSE and A Level, and so decided to study languages at university. So far, I have studied German for a year and feel that this continued language learning has had a real, positive impact on my life. This is something I’m sure will continue, especially now that I have also started to learn Italian. It has been fascinating to see the interconnectedness between different languages emerge and, I am finding myself using the same skills developed from learning my first foreign language, French. Indeed, I was surprised at just how much more naturally I could pick up other foreign tongues.
7. To improve your native language’s vocabulary
As noted, learning a foreign language improves your understanding of the mechanics of your own language. Another benefit though, is the improvement in your vocabulary. In my own experience of learning French, German, and now Italian, I have found that with each additional language my English vocabulary has greatly expanded — an added bonus!
8. To enhance opportunities for travel whilst studying
It’s not just job opportunities and working life which can be enhanced by learning a foreign language. Some wonderful travel opportunities can develop whilst studying. For example, learning languages at university has enabled me to spend time at the University of Bologna, Italy, as well as at the University of Geneva, Switzerland. In both cases I was able to learn more about the native cultures and broaden my learning. I was also given the opportunity to take classes, such as translation and interpretation, which boosted my language skills.
9. And finally … for the love of it!
Personally, I find learning foreign languages highly stimulating and very fascinating. However, even if you don’t fancy the ongoing cycle of language learning, I would strongly recommend trying to learn at least one other language. It will arm you with many skills, deliver truly fantastic opportunities, and build your confidence in such a way that you will be able to (quite literally!) express yourself in many different ways.