English-speakers have the great luxury of knowing the most in-demand language in the world. When Europeans are sitting down for business or for recreation, the common language spoken is often English. The same is true in Africa and in Asia. So, if you are a native speaker of a language that many people around the world wish to learn, you might ask yourself – why would I learn a different language? There are dozens of reasons, but let’s focus on four of them.
Work and travel opportunities
Speaking another language opens doors to visit other countries and parts of the world that wouldn’t be open to someone who only speaks English. With another language, entire continents open to you not just in terms of job opportunities, but vacation and travel locations. Whatever language you choose to learn, you are going to increase possibilities for yourself.
When you learn a new language, your brain literally has to rewire itself in order to process the new information coming in a new form. Parts of your parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes grow and change, and this has additional effects of improving working memory as well as switching speed between tasks.
Improve command of your native tongue
Having to think about “how you say that” in another language makes you reflect on how you say things in your own language. As a result you start to slow down in your native language and become more intentional with your words.
It is a major accomplishment to be able to speak a second language, although you might be surprised to learn that more than 50% of the world’s population can speak a second language. So, why not join the majority?
Before we get to the “how” of learning a second language, I want to clarify something. While I have cited compelling reasons, you are going to have do a lot of work to speak another language, and unless your “why” is strong, the “how” won’t matter. Make sure that this is something you truly want to do.
Be okay with feeling like a child
You are going to have to start over. All of those things you took for granted growing up – fundamentals of vocabulary, grammar, humor, and the body language and noises that accompany a language – are going to be reset, changed, and challenged as you learn your new one. This will make you feel uncomfortable, and often, unintelligent. But it won’t last forever! You have to crawl before you can walk, and there’s a fair amount of crawling in your new language.
Use free and paid apps to get you started on the basics and fundamentals
The internet is an amazing resource for learning languages these days. There are free apps like Duolingo to help you with the fundamentals of vocabulary and grammar. You can follow that up with paid programs from Pimsleur or Rosetta Stone, just to name a couple.
Start to augment your conversational skills using Meetup or Skype
Studying can only take you so far. At some point you’re going to have to let your language skills out into the wild, and you do that best through conversation. Check out Meetup.com in your local area to find out if there is a group who speaks the language you have chosen. Often times these meetings are free and are full of friendly and social people who want to help you .
Consider trading for help in your language of choice
Classes are less helpful than individual tutoring because you can only go as quickly as the slowest student in the room. It’s much more effective to work with an individual tutor. But you don’t necessarily have to pay. You can be creative and trade out lessons. Someone may speak the language you wish to learn, and you may have something you can teach them in return. Sites like Craigslist are full of opportunities like this. Not only is this inexpensive, but it also means you have someone to keep you accountable and on track in your studies.
Remember, as I said above, if your why is compelling enough, you’ll work through the how, and when you have, you’re going to be a better, more interesting, and more thoughtful version of yourself.
Lúcia writes for the Lingholic.com, she is Portuguese and has a degree in English and German. At the moment she is currently taking a Master’s degree in English as a second language for young learners. She is also improving her Spanish and French!