Are you thinking about learning a new language?
Did you ‘learn’ foreign languages at school but can’t remember a thing?
There are so many benefits of learning a new language that I didn’t know about until I started learning German. In this post I’m going to explain just a few of them and why you need to start now!
1. You’ll Travel with Ease
For many of us, travelling to different countries can plant the seed of learning a new language. Maybe you travel to a lot of Spanish speaking countries. Perhaps you travel to Europe and are fascinated by the variety of languages spoken across the many countries there.
Personally, I chose to learn German because I travel around Europe a lot, and Germany became my favourite country to go to.
I’m sure most of us English speakers have been in the situation where we’ve been abroad and struggled to communicate in some way. I remember one particular incident that happened to me.
I was in a hotel in Torgau, a small town north east of Leipzig. I was still under the delusion that ‘everyone speaks English’. Well in this hotel some of the staff didn’t. I went down to breakfast, earlier than my German friends (whom I’d been relying on for help and translations) and met one of the staff members. I was completely unprepared, had no idea what to say and a half hilarious, half cringe worthy situation ensued where I tried to get a table for breakfast and confusion over what a glass is.
I’ve been in countless situations like this and I’m sure you have similar experiences. I’d love to hear your stories, so leave a comment below so I know I’m not alone in embarrassing myself.
2. Form Better Connections with Friends and Family
Do you have family or friends overseas? If they already speak good English, you may wonder what the point of learning their language would be. After all, you can communicate just fine.
I thought the same thing about my German friends. We’d known each other for years before I could speak any German at all. But here’s the thing, no matter how good someone speaks a language, it is just easier to speak your own.
If your friends or family speak in English with you, just think of the gift you would be giving them if you could spend some time talking to them in their mother tongue. They would be able to express themselves in a completely natural way. Hanging out with your friends would be a completely different experience if you could understand all the in-jokes and banter.
Think of the effort that your friends or family made to learn English, how wonderful would it be to repay that effort? I promise you, the whole relationship would be enhanced.
3. Give Your Brain a Workout
I’m not exaggerating when I say that when I study German or read a book or watch TV in German, my brain feels like it’s been to the gym. Sometimes when I’ve worked out a piece of grammar, or realise why a sentence is structured in a certain way, I swear I can feel connections being made in my brain. While I’m speaking to my language partners, my brain feels like it’s doing a gymnastics routine as I have to quickly work out the German sentence structure.
One of the huge benefits of learning a new language is this brain workout which causes your brain to create new connections. It makes grey matter denser, meaning you literally develop more brain cells. There is a great article by Knowable Magazine which explains it very well.
Because a bilingual person has mastery of two languages, and the languages are activated automatically and subconsciously, the person is constantly managing the interference of the languages so that she or he doesn’t say the wrong word in the wrong language at the wrong time.
There is also evidence that people who speak a second language can delay symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia by around 4.5 years. You can read more about that at Alzheimer’s Research UK.
4. Make New Friends
If you don’t have any native speaker friends when you start learning your target language, you definitely will soon. I’ve met many people on the language exchange app Tandem, many of whom I have spoken to for a year and still speak to regularly. I never would have met so many amazing people if I hadn’t started to learn a new language.
There is no need to be lonely when you’re learning a new language. Thanks to the internet, Tandem and my desire to learn, I always have people to talk to.
It’s so sad that there are so many lonely people in the world at the moment. But if you’re learning another language, you’ll always have people to talk to.
And it’s not just native speakers you’ll meet. I’ve met people from all over the world, online, because they are also learning German. People from India, Italy, Egypt, Poland. So many people who don’t speak English, but I’ve been able to talk to because we both want to learn the same language. German learners, I highly recommend Sprachtreff for this.
5. Understand Other Cultures Better
Let’s expand a little on the earlier point on travelling. It is true that in many cities around the world you can manage in English. Many people in hospitality also speak English.
But what if you want to be a bit more adventurous, move out of the city and see some of the smaller towns and villages?
Here you are less likely to find English speakers, but if you speak the language, a whole new world opens up for you. Locals will respect you for speaking their language. You’ll be able to discover interesting places to visit, off the well-trodden tourist path. You’ll see things ordinary tourists will never see. How about getting some tips from locals about the best local cuisine?
The benefits of learning a new language to travel better are endless. What will you discover?
6. See the World From a Different Perspective
This is something that will come a little later in your language learning journey. Something that, once you understand your target language a bit better, will open your eyes to an incredible new perspective. We only see the world from our own point of view. Yes, if you live in the US, you can watch BBC Worldwide, in the UK you can watch CNN to get the American perspective.
To experience the world from a completely different angle, in a different language is mind blowing.
To watch the news, read magazines, and see how others see the world, and world events. This can be humbling, fascinating and will give you a better understanding of others. You will discover things that resonate with you, and other things that make you realise how different your own culture is to that of your target language.
7. Boost Your Confidence
Learning a new language will undoubtedly boost your confidence in a few different ways. The most obvious is that when you travel, you will no longer have to rely on others to help you, translate for you or for locals to speak in English. I remember that feeling of shyness and even uselessness when I had to lean on a friend because I didn’t know what to say (not that my friends ever made me feel useless of course, you know what I mean).
When I went back to Germany last year, I could manage all the ‘tourist stuff’, checking in and out of hotels, speaking to waiting staff etc. That sense of achievement I felt when I could converse and not rely on English was a huge confidence boost.
It can also help your self confidence and sense of self worth, purely through the sense of achievement and accomplishment. That feeling when a native speaker friend praises you on how well you have progressed. Your English speaking friends and family being amazed that you can speak another language. Just imagine!
So now you know some of the benefits of learning a new language. Want to get started? Check out my post on 5 Language Learning Hacks for some of my favourite tips!
What benefits have you experienced because you could speak another language? Better travel, meeting new people? I would love to hear your stories. If you would like to learn a new language but haven’t taken the plunge yet, what’s stopping you? What benefits would you get out of learning?