11 Ways a Second Language Can Improve English


It is no secret that learning a second language has a vast range of benefits. Generally, we all know that it can open up personal and professional doors, but will it actually help your English, too?

Yes, learning a second language can actually improve your native English. By immersing yourself in another language, your English benefits from broadening vocabulary, improved grammar knowledge, enhanced communication ability, and much more.

Read on to learn about 11 ways a second language can improve your English. Outside the linguistics realm, there are various ways that a second language can improve other parts of your life that rely heavily on your English-speaking abilities.

Broadens Vocabulary

With the English language containing over 170,000 words, it is implausible that you are familiar with all of them. Other languages might more commonly use terms not often used in the English language. Learning these words and phrases will broaden your English vocabulary as well as expand your knowledge of new foreign words.

Along with vocabulary improvement, learning a second language can improve multiple aspects of English:

  • Reading comprehension
  • Conversational ability
  • Structural understanding

By learning a second language, you will be much more open to the chance of developing an interest in enhancing your ability to speak English better.

It is always essential to have as broad of a vocabulary as possible, whether your advantage is used for regular conversation, work or educational purposes, or anything else in which having a more comprehensive range of vocabulary is impressive and useful.

If not for those reasons, having a larger vocabulary is beneficial personally as well. First off, adding words to your knowledge is a fundamental skill to become more intelligent.

Knowing more words is good for a learning environment – reading books, hearing lectures, watching videos, etc. With an extended vocabulary, you can genuinely be more intelligent rather than just trying to sound more intelligent.

Advances Communication Skills

Learning a second language advances the communications skills in English, too. Because you will benefit from an improved vocabulary, you will also find it easier to develop social and communication skills. By learning a second language, you will become more comfortable with the idea of language and using your words correctly. In turn, comfort leads to confidence.

This can make conversation with another person much clearer, concise, and if need be, professional. Better communication skills are just one of the cognitive benefits of learning a second language that can give you an advantage in a social setting.

Many common problems in the professional world today stem from a lack of communication or an inability to get the point across. From instances as simple as a job interview or as advanced as explaining a new proposition to coworkers, being more familiar with the idea of words can make your professional and social life much easier.

It is also a plus to be better prepared to process your feelings and emotions. With a lack of communication skills, you might find it hard to gather your thoughts even to yourself. Learning a second language enhances your ability to put ideas into words. Having that familiarity can prove quite beneficial in all social circumstances.

Improves Decision Making

Another cognitive benefit of improving your English by learning a second language is in the field of decision making. As you learn a second language, you strengthen parts of your brain associated with memory, understanding, and comprehension. Repeating this over and over again by spending time on a second language can heavily influence the way your brain works.

By fine-tuning these parts of your brain, you will be better able to make decisions, both personally and professionally. It does not have as much to do with having a broader vocabulary as it does having completed the task of learning a new language that sharpens the involuntary inner workings of your brain.

Below is a list of other ways in which a second language can improve English when thinking about decision making. It does not simplify the process but, instead, equips you with the ability to accomplish a complicated feat in a shorter and more efficient amount of time.

Approaching problems in another languageIf you ponder a problem by thinking about it in another language, it can give you a clearer idea of the situation.
By having a better understanding, you will be able to approach the situation more clearly and thus make conclusions based on your ability to see the situation from a different perspective.
Advanced responsesWith the cognitive benefits of learning a new language, you will be better suited to give sophisticated responses.
With a better vocabulary, better memory, and better problem-solving skills, your improved English will allow you to analyze problems and decision-making scenarios more quickly and clearly.
Thus, when you face problems, you will be able to reach solutions more successfully.
Improving your thought processWith the actual effort put into learning a new language, you will develop critical decision-making skills.
By pushing yourself to learn something new, you can gain confidence and be sure of yourself in serious situations requiring your input.
With added confidence and a more sufficient thought process, you can sharpen quick-thinking skills.

Improves Contextual Understanding

Learning another language improves your English contextual understanding. Let me explain.

One of the most important parts of learning a new language involves understanding grammatical rules and different contexts. Spending hours at a time learning techniques and ways to recognize these contextual aspects will improve your contextualization in other areas as well.

An example of how this can be seen is as follows:

The English language – aside from pronouns – does not have gendered words used in different circumstances. Many other languages use the gendering of words that make slight changes in letters to the end of many words depending upon the situation. 

Learning unfamiliar things like this will help you further understand the English language by giving you the chance to think more seriously about word choice, situational conversation, and more. 

When you focus parts of your study on the context of a second language and the factors you have to tweak to make them work in certain situations, you might find that learning more about English is much easier than you thought. You might even find it entertaining to practice contextual techniques and implement them into your use of English.

Pairing Contextual Understanding with Social Occurrences

Harkening back to the idea of simply having a conversation with someone, you will be better able to take in and process information coming from another person. With this advantage, your English will be significantly improved.

Besides regular conversation, you will also be better equipped to respond to problems, complete assignments, and approach your daily life more intelligently. Simply put, learning a new language will supply you with skills that help you think outside of the box more often.

Having an increased view of conceptualization can help you in several areas in your life:

  • Understanding and working through struggles in a relationship
  • Formulating more intelligent presentations or completing assignments for a job
  • Convincing yourself to stay motivated, complete goals, and keep a healthy lifestyle

Long story short, pushing yourself to learn the ins and outs of a new language can make your life easier.

By mastering the contextual aspects of a new language, you will be able to do the same thing with your English, eventually figuring out how to use your words for clear communication, self-motivation, and successful interactions with others.

Improves Creativity

English creativity is also improved as you learn a new language. As difficult as learning a new language can be, it is undoubtedly an exciting journey. Just as with taking any other type of class, you can input your own learning techniques for gathering information, memorizing rules, and solidifying a whole new language into your head.

By adding your own touch to the process, you combine previously learned knowledge with further information.

With this in mind, learning a new language opens you up to a unique world of creativity. Once you develop this skill, you will transfer that creativity to your everyday life, including many situations that rely on your English-speaking.

Whether writing in a journal to get your thoughts on a page, coming up with a bedtime story for your children, or taking on a new project at work, having improved creativity can significantly benefit how you approach circumstances that require critical thinking, creativity, and unique execution.

Similarly, learning a new language will expand your understanding of linguistics. As you get to know a language, you will likely see how much a particular culture is impacted by how people talk. 

You might even take the time to educate yourself on other aspects of that culture, thus expanding your general knowledge of it. That can improve your English in the same way that learning about grammar, phonics, pronunciation, and more aspects of your second language can help you. 

Greater Phonetic and Structural Understanding

As mentioned above, learning a second language will likely help you understand key components of the English language more clearly.

As you know, learning words is just a fraction of the process of learning an entire language. There are so many other features – pronunciation, sentence structure, spelling, grammar, etc. – that play a role in learning a language.

Becoming familiar with the specific aspects of another language will help you better understand those similar aspects in English, which, in turn, will aid in improving the way you speak, the words you choose, and the reasons for why something is the way that it is.

Having a better understanding of the English language’s set rules will help you better understand your own thoughts and the words of others.

Increases Interest in English

Learning a second language can also increase your interest in English. So much of the English language consists of words derived from other languages. (If you’d like to read more about cognates, I suggest you check out this article I’ve written that explains it more.)

Understanding how and why these words were incorporated into the English language will give you an appreciation for your native tongue.

The specifics of how a second language can increase your interest in English involve:

  • Learning the origins of thousands of words (Amazon has a book I recommend called The Origins of English Words)
  • Learning why those words were incorporated into the English language
  • Understanding differences between English words and the words they are derived from
  • Hearing stories related to the derived words

Once you find an interest between the similarities of the language you learn and the English language, it will improve your English speaking with a developed appreciation for the language. You might find yourself using new words and further expanding your vocabulary out of respect for your second language and its relationship to English.

Seeing these similarities and understanding the languages’ relationship can help in different aspects of your life:

  • Tons of scientific information have an origin in Latin, with the original names of species, plants, diseases, and more coming from an ancient language. Recognizing this can help you understand the field of science more.
  • Some movies (for example, a seven-part series about a wizard, Harry Potter found at Amazon) use another language as the origin of spells, names, and more. This can help you further study the English language and appreciate what you did not previously recognize.
  • Keeping yourself interested in the English language gives you more of a chance of learning things about it that many people do not consider: its history, special rules that make it unique when compared to other languages, etc.

When you develop a greater appreciation for what you are learning and how it is related to your current language, you will find that it can make the process much more enjoyable and worthwhile.

Improves Quality of Language

Considering all the combined benefits that learning a new language can display, you will also have a better general idea of how to use your words and which words to use.

After having developed a broader vocabulary, strengthening your brain, and immersing yourself in a new language, you will be able to decipher deeper and more quality meanings in everyday life.

This advantage is beneficial to your use of the English language because it will make you sound more intelligent. (Not in the sense that you are trying to sound smarter than someone, but simply that you genuinely have a better understanding of the English language than you used to.)

As mentioned earlier, by using your words at a higher level (with a clear understanding of context and meaning), you will be well-prepared for anything that relies on language. For instance, the casual circumstance of a conversation with a friend, to formulating an exceptional resume for your dream job.

Other benefits of having an improved quality of language:

ExpressionYou can more clearly put your thoughts into words and say what you mean.
LearningYou will understand things like books better: deciphering context, meaning, information, and plot.
Teaching Whether or not it has to do specifically with teaching English, having a better quality style of language will allow you to explain things with ease in educational encounters.
Respect Improving your English by learning about the language rather than simply what words are and how to say them will give you an appreciation for linguistics that you likely had not thought of before.

English – as well as all other languages – is often taken for granted. Many people do not understand the importance of the spoken word. Learning a second language provides you with the opportunity to reflect on your native tongue and learn more about yourself and the world. It is a bit cliché, but it is certainly truthful.

Seeing a Different Side of Things

In a general sense, a second language can improve your English by teaching you to see a new perspective.

When using the art of language, you might not always allow yourself to stay open-minded. Seeing everything as cut-and-dry and going through the motions does not benefit you as much as staying optimistic in certain situations.

Chances are that if you learn a second language, you might not perfect it to the extent of finding yourself thinking in that language. With that said, it will still help you see a different side of things by challenging you to alter your views or opinions on some topics.

Learning about a new culture and its language will improve your English by giving you the chance to compare your new venture to your current knowledge, finding similarities and differences that can affect other areas of your life. You will have further strengthened your cognitive abilities, which can help you express yourself in English.

Improves Observation

Another aspect of your English that will be improved, thanks to the second language, involves your observational abilities. By learning something as tricky as a whole new language, you will develop critical thinking skills, techniques, and methods that will sharpen your ability to observe.

Motivating yourself to learn a new language will increase your focus, intellect, and thought processes, making you more observant of the things around you. These observations can be better taken into account by having an improved version of English implemented into your mind.

When you more clearly understand the English language, you can more easily use your thoughts and words to form meanings of the world around you. In this way, learning a second language does not only improve your English; it can strengthen your ability to observe and analyze your surroundings. Observational improvements can help you in several aspects:

  • Being able to analyze a situation that requires your input
  • Having the means necessary to describe in great detail memories you share or experiences you reflect on
  • Understand specific environments and the way people in those environments act certain ways
  • Increasing your knowledge of the English language, from a general idea to its intricacies and how it plays a role in the lives of us all

Cognitive and Practical

The information above shows how noticeable improvement is commonly present and useful when considering a second language’s effects on English. However, some of the topics discussed might still seem a bit too broad or vague to you.

That is understandable. It can be challenging to see how cognitive improvement has anything to do with English. So, it might be beneficial to see a simpler side of things.

When it is said that having a stronger brain can improve your English, your first thought might jump to the idea of expanding your vocabulary. It is so much more than that. See, the cognitive benefits work together with the practical side of things to improve your English.

Developing Lasting Benefits vs. Learning New Information

One of the most significant ways a second language improves English is by further expanding your knowledge. Of course, you are also boosting your understanding when you read a new chapter for your biology class, so how are these different?

If you are just learning something in school, chances are that loads of that information will not stick with you in the future. However, learning a second language is not a temporary thing. If you put in the effort, the benefits will last for the rest of your life.

Think of the saying, “It’s like a second language to me.” When someone says this, they are using language as an example because it is so familiar to them, they will not forget it anytime soon.

Similarly, all of the advantages you gain and the improvements you develop on your path will not leave you anytime soon.

Thus, all of the cognitive strengths you develop will remain functional in your brain, allowing you to see the world in a different light, take more time to approach response situations with more intelligence, and have a greater appreciation for the English language.

Brain Activity as an Improvement for English

All of the thoughts in your brain are transferred to your consciousness through the use of language. Your brain itself does not speak English. It merely provides you with the information to decipher the synapses and such running through it. However, you probably do not want a lecture on the scientific side of things.

In a more straightforward sense, all of your thoughts and actions result from the words you use to determine what is going on. By strengthening your thought process and the aspects of your brain, such as memory, critical thinking, and contextualization, you will be able to take a step back every once in a while and think more carefully. 

Having a broader understanding of your language will allow you to handle many different situations more skillfully: you can think more clearly, converse more intelligently, and observe your surroundings more successfully.

Learning a second language is much more than becoming acquainted with a new way to speak, read, or listen. As you educate yourself, you are consistently training your brain to work more efficiently with your native language. This makes it easier to express your thoughts and opinions, have a casual conversation, or understand a concept.

Linguistics as More than Words

Language itself is a beautiful thing, and as you can probably tell from this article, it affects so many aspects of peoples’ lives besides simply holding conversations.

When you learn about how a second language can improve English, it is not just evidence that it will help you speak better. Learning a second language can physically enhance the inner workings of your brain, allowing permanent advantages to alter the way you think, speak, and live.

Of course, it is great to benefit from a second language if it broadens your range of vocabulary. But in another sense, it can give you a sense of a more high-quality version of your life. Learning a second language and how it improves your English can lead to several successful outcomes:

  • More intimate relationships with friends and family
  • Better job opportunities
  • Less trouble dealing with life’s problems
  • Improved ability to put your thoughts into words
  • Advanced thinking skills that increase the quality of your observations, conversations, and opinions

There are so many ways that learning a second language can help you master your native tongue to use your words to become more intelligent, successful, and thoughtful. It will help you consciously consider how you are framing your speech before you say it, a skill hugely beneficial no matte which language you are conversing in.

The Final Talking Point on Ways a Second Language Can Improve English

As you can see, a second language can improve your English in a myriad of ways. Learning a new language will teach you so many ways to think, speak, and listen more carefully and intelligently in your everyday life.

Also, the cognitive benefits are a major plus. If you are learning a new language, consider focusing some of your energy on seeing how the process affects your English-speaking abilities.

By researching further, you will indeed find that there are even more ways to learn how a second language improves English, but this piece should be a great place to spark your understanding.

Language and the study of linguistics are far more critical than most people recognize them to be. By pushing yourself to learn an entirely new language, you will simultaneously strengthen your native tongue to prepare yourself for everyday events better.

Jackie Booe

Jackie Booe is a licensed teacher for elementary through high school in 3 states. She is a former adjunct professor at the undergraduate level and certified to teach elementary, secondary English, and English Language Learners. She was a mentor for many education interns, has taught and coordinated professional development for teachers and educators, and professionally tutored in a multitude of subjects.

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