339 million- that’s the number of people who speak English as a first language. 339 million out of 7.1 billion. A mere drop in the ocean. When combined with people who speak English as a foreign language, that 339 million increases to 1 billion. But, there’s at least 86% of the population who do not speak a word of English at all.
So no, don’t be using the excuse that you don’t need to learn a language because ‘everyone’ speaks English. Clearly, they don’t; only 14% do. Think about that for a second…
Bottom line: languages are awesome. More than awesome. Besides, without language means of communication would be near enough non-existent. And, nobody wants that.
To me, languages allow you to express yourself in a way that wouldn’t have been possible before. Sure, they can be tedious to learn and frustrating when you can’t grasp a tense, but they’re rewarding. They give you a different dimension that you wouldn’t otherwise have.
Nothing is more satisfying than when you’re stood next to a group of people abroad and you are the only one out of your friends that can understand what they’re saying, or you’ve successfully resolved the room issue in the hotel as the receptionist didn’t speak your native language and yup, you guessed it, none of your friends took Spanish at GCSE because it would have been too much effort.
In fact, I would go as far to say that languages are a lifeline. Or, should I say, une bouée de sauvetage.
So, I’ve put together 5 simple reasons why you should take up learning a foreign language.
- It’s fun! Okay, so you might need a bit of convincing here. Learning a whole new way of communicating opens your eyes and makes you see your own idiolect in a different light. One of my favourite elements of learning a language is, admittedly, the slang. Not only does it help you to talk like a local, but it is pretty amusing to see how they insult someone…I mean, to grasp their humour…
- Speaking more than one language increases your brain capacity and you have better a memory too. I think this one is a bit of a no-brainer (see what I did there?!). In recent years, a psychologist at York University in Toronto, Ellen Bialystok, has found that students who study foreign languages tend to score higher in exams than their monolingual peers, particularly in the categories of maths, reading, and spelling. Additionally, a study conducted by Researchers from University College London has shown that learning other languages altered grey matter – the area of the brain which processes information – in the same way exercise builds muscles. Pretty impressive, huh?
- It’s an excellent achievement to speak a foreign language and you’ll have better options for your future! More and more employers are one the lookout for another language now, so proficiency in a second language is a HUGE advantage. Need I say, it will broaden your horizons. Studies show, that those who speak a foreign language earn at least 2% more annually compared to those who don’t.
- You can communicate with the locals. I don’t know about you, but I almost feel rude when I visit another country and I can’t converse with the sale assistants or restaurant staff. Actually, it’s a bit embarrassing to have to mumble “do you speak English?”. Languages allow you to converse with the locals and explore the area in a completely different light- you can wander away from the typical tourist hotspots and discover the real country. It’ll allow you to have a deeper understanding of the people and culture, and the locals will greet you with open arms because of it.
- Meet new people and discover life-long friendships. Now, I saved this one to last as it’s the most important one to me. I met my best friends through studying languages- my best friends both in the UK and in Europe. From trips to the continent to introducing each other to our local customs and traditions, learning a language has enabled me to create some amazing memories. Perhaps the best memories
Fortunately, there are some brilliant apps out there nowadays to help us when it comes to learning a language- Linguee, Duolingo, and WordReference are my three favourites. With so many languages to choose from, just ten minutes a day will allow you to have a proficient understanding of a foreign language in a couple of months.
Go on, stand out from the crowd and test yourself- go learn another language. You never know where it could take you.