Keeping up with the world

There are large benefits of learning a foreign language

Growing up in a monolingual household, surrounded by mostly monolingual people, I never saw any problem with it. However, for the past five years I have been immersed in the Spanish language through school and the opportunity to travel. It has done so much to broaden my worldview and improve myself. 

It is generally accepted by scientists that there are more people in the world that can speak a second language than not. However, according to the US Census Bureau, when the lens is focused in on the US, language proficiency drops to only 20% of citizens being able to converse in two or more languages. To be able to speak in another tongue is to broaden a worldview, increase opportunities and strengthen brain function at the same time. 

For some reason it seems there is a stigma among Americans around speaking in another language, whether it be judging someone for speaking in a foreign language or promoting the use of only English in public or at all. According to Pew Research Center, 22% of hispanics have felt criticized for speaking spanish. There is no greater fault in the education provided to American students than the lack of stress on gaining fluency in a foreign language.

The nature of the world begs each and every one of us to learn as many languages as we can. There are so many people from so many cultural backgrounds that each of us can learn so much from. 

Modern technology has blessed us with the ability to communicate with people we don’t speak the same language through translators. This does not diminish the necessity of being multilingual in our lives. Every attempt to connect with someone via native language gives them the knowledge that you appreciate them for who they are culturally. Translating is easy, but connecting with people is hard.

No matter where you are there will be differences in language, but at any point in time, being bilingual may give you an advantage over others. For example, someone can become a frontrunner for a job position due to advanced skills in speaking multiple languages, or being able to get help from someone who speaks a different language. For every bit of language learned, opportunities may arise that were not available before.

While it may take time and effort, learning a second language can inadvertently benefit many aspects of people’s lives that some may not think about. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, bilingualism can improve performance in conflict management and problem solving. It is a simple way to optimize the brain while reaping the interpersonal benefits.

The learning of a new language is essential and quite often overlooked, especially in the U.S. where so many linguistic and cultural backgrounds coexist. It should be a disappointment to never attempt to see through a new perspective by learning a new language. The benefits are endless and undeniable.