7 Reasons Why Foreign Language Learning Is Important

For all people, young and old, learning a new language can open many doors. Whether traveling for work or attempting to read a new foreign language book, foreign language learning can be an exciting way to challenge yourself. While it does take both dedication and effort, becoming bi-lingual is a wonderful way to learn about other cultures and cultivate your mind’s immense potential.

Across the United States, becoming bilingual or multilingual is becoming increasingly popular. From opening doors professionally to broadening one’s personal horizons, there are a multitude of reasons that make learning a foreign language important and beneficial.

With much of society communicating globally through the internet and online social media outlets, it is especially crucial now more than ever to take this opportunity to learn a language other than your own. Read on for our top seven reasons why foreign language learning is important.

The World’s Many Languages

It is definitely beneficial to know more than one of the world’s many languages. Across the globe, there are around 6,500 languages spoken by nearly 7.7 billion people. While many languages contain similarities or reminiscent sounds to each other depending on the age of the language and the location in which it is spoken, each language is incredibly unique. 

According to the PubMed Central® Magazine at the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine, Price’s Atlas of Ethnographic Studies lists more than 3,814 different cultures in the world, each with their own distinct way of communicating.

Though these high numbers may be difficult to comprehend on a practical level, it is clear that knowing more than one language can help build an understanding of some of these other cultures while bridging gaps of historical information to create a more unified study of language.

Connect with Other Cultures

One of the top reasons for learning a foreign language is to connect with other cultures. Sometimes, different languages you aren’t familiar with can have different words for concepts that might not exist in your own culture.

Understanding some of these fun, silly, and beautiful phrases can really help you understand both the humor and the priorities of certain cultures. A few of these unique phrases include:

  • Hygge: A Danish word associated with the feelings of coziness, happiness, and contentment one gets during the winter months or holiday season.
  • Jolie laide: A popular French term that directly translates into the English language as “pretty ugly.” It is commonly used to describe the phenomenon of being attracted to someone or something despite a lack of conventional beauty. This can be used for people, for architecture, and very commonly for art.
  • Kummerspeck: A German word that literally translates into the silly phrase “grief bacon,” which actually refers to the weight gained by a person when eating an excessive amount to console themselves when grieving.
  • Pana po’o: A Hawaiian term for when a person puts their hand to their head or scratches it slightly in order to remember or recall something that they have forgotten.
  • Pena ajena: A phrase in Spanish that translates to being embarrassed for someone else.
  • Schlimazel: A phrase in the original Jewish Yiddish language that refers to a person who is missing out on luck or is generally just very unlucky in their life.
  • Sortable: A French word that is used to talk about a friend or a coworker who, due to their personality quirks, cannot be taken out in public.
  • And very many more.

Be Prepared to Travel

Another very practical reason to learn a foreign language is for use during international travel. Nearly 37.8 million Americans took international flights in 2019, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

Though it has become increasingly easier to use translation apps and foreign language dictionaries to get by when traveling abroad, it is always more respectful to attempt to use the country’s most common language when speaking to residents. 

Knowing, or even becoming fluent in the language of the country which you intend to visit, can help you not only communicate with the locals but also do the following:

  • Barter with vendors and sellers
  • Read street signs
  • Make new friends
  • Navigate public transportation systems
  • Order properly and respectfully in restaurants
  • Understand polite greetings and tonalities
  • Understand the news

Exercise Your Brain

If you want to undergo a healthy challenge for your brain, learning a foreign language is the perfect activity for you. A research study from the Lund University and Umeå University in Sweden in 2012 found that certain parts of your brain can actually get bigger when you learn a foreign language.

Learning a new foreign language is also said to impact memory and help discourage early onset signs of dementia. It is also claimed that being bi-lingual can help you multitask without any added stress placed on your central nervous system. If you’d like to learn more about the effects on the brain of learning a foreign or second language, I’ve written about it here, as well.

Get Ahead in the Workplace

The fourth reason why learning a foreign language is important is to get ahead in the workplace. Many businesses and companies are now expanding or shipping worldwide, as well as dealing with international clients regularly.

Publishing companies, storytellers, marketing companies, and eCommerce sellers are also looking for translation services at a steadily increasing rate. If you are able to become fluent in another language, then you will certainly be in demand as a translator.

When you know at least one additional language, your odds of obtaining a position over any non-multi-lingual candidates are much higher. Your talents for foreign language knowledge are likely to be appreciated by your superiors and, therefore, give you an edge over those who do not know multiple languages.

Help Preserve Ancient Languages

Learning a foreign language, especially an ancient language, is a great way to preserve history through the means of knowledge. Ancient languages are rarely spoken by many people and are always at the risk of becoming extinct. 

There are many programs that seek to aid in the preservation of ancient languages. A lot of these programs include educational institutions such as universities and colleges, which offer classes and practical workshops on learning ancient languages in the hopes of keeping them alive for future generations. Some of these ancient languages are:

  • Aramaic
  • Ancient Greek
  • Babylonian
  • Biblical Hebrew
  • Latin
  • Mayan
  • Mycenaean Greek
  • Sanskrit
  • Yiddish

Read the Originals

The sixth reason why foreign language learning is important is that it enables you to read the original versions of the most widely celebrated and well-known books worldwide. For anyone who loves reading and literature, this is one of the most compelling reasons to become fluent in another language. 

Some of the world’s favorite books have been translated into many different languages from their original. However, it is reading the book in its original intended language that will give the reader a true sense of the author’s intentions as well as a closeness to the content that sometimes simply cannot be derived from reading translations.

Some of the most famous translated books are (Amazon linked):

Honor Your Family Heritage

Our last reason why learning a foreign language can benefit you is because it can help you keep your own family history alive. Many Americans are actually the descendants of immigrants from other countries with unique cultures and languages. These descendants are foregoing learning their family’s originally spoken languages at an alarming rate, therefore letting their family history fizzle away.

If you are aware of your family’s geographic history, such as Swedish, German, or Russian, for example, it is a great idea to choose to learn one of those languages. Not only will it keep your family’s heritage alive for future generations, but it will also show respect to your grandparents, great-grandparents, or ancestors by acknowledging your family’s origins.

After doing a family search, we discovered our German heritage. This sparked the desire to learn German, as well as multiple trips to Bavaria, Germany. It’s been tremendous for our family, leading to our daughter studying abroad during high school and earning a full-ride scholarship to Louisiana State University.

The Final Talking Point about 7 Reasons Why Foreign Language Learning Is Important

Learning a foreign language is beneficial to both the welfare of our society and your own professional and personal life. Many Americans find themselves growing more interested in learning a foreign language or even becoming fluently multilingual as the benefits become more apparent.

Not only will foreign language learning help us create a more unified and understanding world, but it can also benefit you in your daily life when traveling, reading, or even cooking international cuisine. 

There’s no reason to put off learning a new and exciting foreign language with so many available ways to learn new languages, including classes, online programs, and self-led learning books.

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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, department leader at various levels and organizations, has taught and coordinated professional development for teachers and educators, and professionally tutored in a multitude of subjects.

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