It’s quite an impressive perspective if we think about it. Most people of our generation have mastered at least two languages as part of their basic skills (English and their mother tongue). It’s usually mandatory to learn English as a second language at school. And most higher education structures require a qualification in English to become a graduate or even be accepted. All in all, developing English language skills has become essential in our globalised world. But then, if we’re already developing a specific set of skills, why stop at English? What are some of the good reasons to learn other languages?
1. It’s a massive boost to your career
Because as far as extracurricular activities and skills you can acquire in your free time go, learning new languages has to be amongst the most efficient use of your time! In terms of career prospects, as you might have heard already, speaking another language is an indisputable plus on your resume, and several studies show a direct correlation between the importance of your first salary and your ability to speak foreign languages. And it makes sense if you think about it. You can probably do business with foreign commercial partners in their second language - English, but if you want to truly connect with them, understand their emotions and way of thinking, earn their trust and respect, or at least make sure that they won’t fall back on their own language to discuss details of the deal among themselves, you’ll need to learn their mother tongue.
2. It expands your opportunities and perspectives
Many of you might not be interested in spending your whole life in the same country you were born in. So if you’re looking for a way to escape and set off to head abroad, then there’s something critical you will need before doing that. That’s right, you guessed it, you’ll need to learn this particular country’s language! Even if you found yourself a country with a reputation for English proficiency as a second language, like one of the Scandinavian countries, for instance, you will still need those sweet language skills in order to complete administrative procedures at the very least. But bar the boring side of things: you will see what an effective integration tool it is to speak the language of your new home country, how fulfilling it is to feel like a local and not like a tourist anymore. And, what’s even better, it’s a very rewarding process, even if you progress at the pace of baby steps. I remember how happy I felt when I managed to order my first meal fully in Swedish during my exchange in Goteborg. And by simply living in the country, you are constantly exposed to the language - so it’s all that easier to learn!
In fact, even if you do not feel like moving to another country but enjoy travelling and exploring the world, learning foreign languages still is a must for you. As Dr Thomas H Bak, a cognitive neuroscientist, said, “If all you want from Germany is a selfie in front of the Brandenburg Gate, you won’t need any German. But, to understand German history, culture and people… and learn from them, you’ll be better off learning at least a bit of their language”. In the era of globalisation, it’s even more important to learn more languages, not only English, in order to deeply connect with other people and cultures instead of comforting yourself with stereotypes.
3. It’s easier than ever before!
or young people like us, for our generation, learning new languages has become widely available and easy to do. This is mainly thanks to a wide range of digital learning opportunities at our disposal, like online courses and language apps (like the Erasmus+ programme online learning platform, OLS). Also, you can go at your own pace by listening to videos, podcasts, and other free, easily accessible media, all in the languages that you want to practice. We, as students of the Internet generation, should make the most of all these opportunities to learn new languages. And we also benefit from the ease of travelling and mobility. It’s nice to learn Spanish online, but it’s even nicer to learn it during your exchange in Barcelona!
In the end, regardless of how passionate you are about learning a new language, this is really not a hobby to be dismissed. Interesting, easy to learn, becoming more culturally aware, more employable… The benefits of learning new languages are numerous, and the drawbacks are few.
So go on and celebrate the European Day of Languages with us by giving a chance to another language!