Learning A Foreign Language

“Learning to speak another’s language
means taking one’s place in the human community.
It means reaching out to others
across cultural and linguistic boundaries.
Language is far more than a system to be explained.
It is our most important link to the world around us.
Language is culture in motion.
It is people interacting with people.”

- Sandra Savignon


“We want to raise our children
so that they can take the sense of pleasure
in both their own heritage
and the diversity of others.”

– Mister Rogers

Most people learn foreign languages out of necessity, be it a job requirement or a compulsory language in college. What they consider is the commercial aspect of learning languages. However, the biggest incentive to pick up a language lies in its human aspect, for we are highly developed beings with a sense of curiosity and belonging. Below are some reasons what learning a foreign language can bring.

Bolstering career opportunities. This is perhaps the most popular reason for people learning a foreign language. Language is a perk that can repeatedly work for you in different levels of your career. Apart from significantly increasing your chance of being employed fast, you will have better prospects for promotions and overseas assignments. If you are an entrepreneur, mastering foreign languages will make it easy for you to penetrate new markets.

Enhancing life with foreign culture. Mastering a foreign language will open doors to appreciating foreign music, movie, literature, legends, plays and so on. You get to enjoy the original version of a presentation that may otherwise be lost in translation as discrepancies are bound to happen.

Enjoying holidays. Being a traveler in another country makes you a tourist. Your ability to blend in and experience the culture first hand and to participate in their everyday activities is hindered by your lack of communication. Besides having difficulty in expressing the simple task like looking for a washroom, you’ll most probably be paying more for services and goods.

If you speak the same language as the locals, you’ll be pointed to the most authentic local food outlets, get to chat with the locals, visit all the little-known local destinations and do so much more at a deeper level. Instead of being a `surface tourist’ and do the things tourists do, you make the most of your traveling experience.

Developing self-confidence. Doesn’t it feel good to be able to speak a language your family members and colleagues are not familiar about? As shallow as it seems, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Certainly you don’t fancy knowing a foreign language, but who can deny its advantages when it comes to impressing your boss, that cute girl in the bar, your future in-laws or anyone else for that matter.

Don’t you think you have the necessary experience to ace that interview? Highlight your language skill in your resumé. Feeling nervous about public speaking? Start your speech with a Spanish quotation and take it from there. The best part is, once you master a language, it’s yours to keep forever. No one can take it away from you.

Understanding better one’s roots. Mastering another language will enable you to look at things from a different perspective. As you gain insights into a foreign language and culture, you will have means of comparing it with your own culture and how those cultures originated. This will not only broaden your horizon, it will offer you a new pair of eyes in living and appreciating the little things you’ve always took for granted.

Interacting with friends across borders. You never know what awaits you once you go out beyond your comfort zone. Some people made friends that change their world, found their hopes and goals in life and some met the love of their lives. Could your calling be teaching orphans in a developing country? How about testing that traditional spicy recipe you got from the folks at a remote village in Malaysia for dinner?

Cherishing people and heritage. You see a bigger picture of the world when you master a foreign language and do some exploring of your own. People with the most exposure are usually humbled by the knowledge that the world is really a colorful creation with various types of people, each with different sets of heritage and ways of living albeit sharing the common gift of brotherhood.

Broadening choice of overseas universities. Thinking of studying abroad but you don’t want to end up with huge study loan debt? Regarding studying abroad, you’ll most likely think of high demand countries like France, Germany or Japan. Apart from being the countries with the high currency values and high cost of living, the admission requirements are also higher and harder to obtain.

In this case, knowing foreign languages such as French or Mandarin will open doors to equally fantastic universities in lesser targeted countries. You can easily blend in with the locals and your resumé will easily stand out against others, plus people will be very interested to find out about the years you spent abroad in countries they have probably never been to themselves.

Challenging cognitive learning capabilities. Learning a foreign language exercises the mind as it involves utilizing different skills such as memorizing, recognizing different types of sentences and mastering pronunciation. This translates into increase cognitive learning such as math, literature and arts. People who learn foreign language seem to have better mental flexibility and creativity in reasoning, conceptual thinking and thinking outside the box. Learning a second language also delays the onset of dementia.

Gratifying and rewarding. Learning a language becomes second nature once you stop treating it as a task and start to look at it as an application. People will have extra interest about you, your exposure to foreign culture and the stories you can tell them about that culture. People will like you. Before you know it, you will be the center of attention and telling people about this foreign culture will come in handy as an ice breaker at parties. You are able to talk in codes with your fellow classmates and friends. You’ll even inspire others to master a second or third language. This alone will give you that deep satisfaction to pick up a foreign language.

For all what has been said above, the importance and advantages of learning a second language is continuing to increase day by day.  However, the importance of learning a second language is not merely limited to the ability of communicating with people who speak different languages. When people learn a second language, they become a valuable asset to the community in which they work and live. Learning a second language also enables a person to adapt to a variety of cultural backgrounds. Also, the capacity of communicating in another language can be a contributory factor to the overall achievement of professional and personal career goals.

When one absorbs another culture by learning a second language, apart from appreciating other peoples and their cultures, it also enables us to comprehend what role language plays in shaping our thought patterns. Learning a second language, therefore, can not only challenge your mind, but also enrich your soul, so to speak. Apart from being able to converse with different people in their own language, it can also teach you understanding, tolerance, and patience. Thus, an individual who speaks more than one language is certainly having an edge or better off, culturally, intellectually, professionally, and holistically than a person who only knows one language.

“It is, therefore, very important to teach students
about the world beyond their own countries.
What are the similarities we share and differences
without friends around the world?
We must understand what motivates those
whose cultures and traditions are not our own.
To achieve these goals, we must teach our children international education
skills which include the learning of other languages, cultures and traditions.”

- Margaret Spellings