While some analysts say that English is becoming the international language of business and society, there’s never been a better time to learn a foreign language such as German, French or Japanese. Though such languages may not be quite as widespread as English, they offer rich sets of linguistics and innuendos not found in any dialect of English. The reasons for learning a new language are varied, but the importance of learning foreign languages is universal: it will always benefit you in one way or another.
First and foremost, one of the most important reasons to learn a foreign language is the stimulation it offers your mind. Like a young child grappling with language for the very first time, you find yourself lusting for knowledge and oozing curiosity at every turn. The familiar becomes fascinating, and your mind is opened to new ways of approaching even the simplest areas of life. According to three studies by Bruck, Lambert, Tucker (1974), Hakuta (1986) and Weatherford (1986), children enrolled in foreign language courses demonstrate stronger cognitive skills, particularly in the area of creativity. An added bonus: those with competency (not necessarily fluency) in more than one language tend to have higher intelligence scores on standardized tests.
Foreign languages are also important to those working in business, communications and nearly every other career track. Even if your potential clientele speak English, there isn’t a better way to understand their needs and cultural desires than to learn their language. It helps make a great first impression, and it shows that you are willing to go above and beyond to maintain the relationship. In many cultures, attempting to speak the language is viewed as a sign of respect and has the potential to open doors in the future.
Of course, there are also the aesthetic reasons for learning a new language. It is fun to pronounce words with nasal resonances and tongue rolling, features not present in most English conversations. Some languages have certain social connotations that invoke feelings when heard or spoken. When sampling a particular culture—such as German—it helps to understand how to pronounce words when ordering a warm streusel or asking for the way to the autobahn. This feeling of competency and control can alleviate much of the stress of traveling, making your vacation to Bavaria all the more restful and/or enjoyable.
Regardless of the reasons why you would like to learn a new language, you should always allow yourself to explore new linguistic territories. Learning multiple languages will always serve to enhance your quality of life, and even if you never use that language in practical circumstances, you almost certainly will enjoy the time spent educating yourself. Language learning is unique in that you rarely have to spend much money to find a passionate instructor or fellow learner, and the adventure of understanding a new tongue is one experience you will not soon forget.
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