Learning another language is like figuring out how to play the guitar, or trying to pick up any other new hobby. It takes practice. It takes commitment. It takes interest. And while grasping the intricacies and nuances of languages seems to come easier for some people than others, everyone should learn a second language.
The fever for English education around the world is high, and the hotness for English teachers continues to rise. However, there are several other dominating languages, and many lesser-known linguistic forms of communication worth exploring. Trends shift. Fads fade. Fevers break. English might not always be in such demand.
Not convinced? Here are 10 reasons why native English speakers should also learn a second language:
1. Learning a second language is essential to be competitive in the job market.
Applicants who can speak more than one language are the preferred candidates for most jobs. Even if the position is in an English-speaking country, having the ability to communicate effectively in a second language will make you a more competitive contender.
2. Learning a second language is an investment that pays off.
Being able to communicate in more than one language pays off in the end, even if you had to financially invest in a language-learning program to begin with. Many jobs offer higher pay to bilingual employees, and more opportunities for financial gain will come from having multilingual skills.
3. Learning a second language breaks barriers.
Dealing with a language barrier while traveling or working abroad can be frustrating. When people are forced to communicate in baby-speak, things tend to get a little soiled. Although attempting to get over a communication block is often met with hilarity, think about how much higher you could climb if you were able to get a solid foothold first.
4. Learning a second language is respectful.
Learn at least the basics of a language you’re about to jump into before diving right in. The locals will likely laugh at your pronunciation and mistakes, but they’ll also be impressed and respect you for making an attempt. Being cross-culturally polite through various forms of communication makes a difference—a big difference.
5. Learning a second language makes you more attractive.
Knowing another language is a huge seller when it comes to dating. Not only does it make the market for a potential date larger, it could potentially draw more people to you because of your desire and dedication to learning something as hefty as a second language. Sweet nothings sound more romantic when whispered in a foreign language.
6. Learning a second language demonstrates a willingness to go beyond the surface.
There’s a debatable line between what it means to be a traveler and what it means to be traveling as a tourist. However, understanding at least a little bit of another language unarguably makes integration more of a reality while traveling abroad. And perhaps being able to successfully integrate into another culture is what separates a digger from a surface dweller, a traveler from a tourist.
7. Learning a second language could be necessary for survival.
Think about what you’d do if you were in an emergency situation, surrounded by only non-English speakers. Putting on a theatrical performance by madly gesturing only gets you so far when what you might need to clearly communicate is necessary for survival.
8. Learning a second language gets rid of unfair expectations.
Speakers of other languages shouldn’t be expected to speak English for you. Know how to linguistically navigate your way through multicultural situations without relying on others to cater to your needs.
9. Learning a second language makes you more aware of your native language.
Languages aren't only different in visual appearance they also differ in sentence structure and tone. Becoming more conscious of another language makes you much more aware of how your own is constructed. Gaining an outside perspective might even help you become a better communicator in English.
10. Learning a second language is exciting!
Few things in life are more thrilling than solving a difficult riddle, or finding the key to unlock a treasure chest. Learning a second language is a lot like that. Words are the puzzle pieces, and figuring out how to connect them results in something truly beautiful.
FIVE TIPS FOR LEARNING A SECOND LANGUAGE
Start by figuring out which way to learn a second language will work best for you. Do you prefer to study in a classroom setting? Are you able to learn online? Do you need to be in another country to actually pick up any of the local language? Check out study abroad options on HelpGoAbroad to begin your journey.
1. Get involved in a conversational partner program. Give and take, take and give. There are many opportunities, especially in larger, more ethnically diverse cities, to get to know about another culture and language at the same time as teaching about your own.
2. Online resources or self-study software packages such as Rosetta Stone are excellent ways to develop important foundational aspects of a language before, or even while you’re fully immersed. Rosetta Stone is available in at least 30 languages.
3. Commit to studying a second language for at least thirty minutes a day. Make it a thing you do. Like exercise. Seems simple. But, like anything routine, once you get out if it, it’s much harder to get back on the treadmill. Being too zealous from the start usually ends in failure. Don’t overcommit.
4. Drop yourself in a country you want to learn more about. A full-immersion approach has proven effective for many language learners. By having to communicate in the native tongue to get by, you’ll be impressed with how quickly a second language can be acquired.
5. If you’re a parent, enroll your children in a language course. Now. Don’t wait. Studies show it’s easier for children to pick up a second language than it is for adults. Do your kids a favor. They’ll thank you for it in the future. Better yet, study a second language together!
TAKE MY (ENGLISH) WORDS FOR IT
Even though I've lived and taught English abroad for several years, I haven’t fully grasped another language. I’m reminded on a daily basis just how essential multilingual skills are becoming. The power of globalization leaves us with little choice. The very students I teach are already one step ahead of me. It’s time to practice what I preach, take my own advice and learn a second language.