The language in which you are reading this is well on its way to being the world’s universal language, for better or for worse. English is everywhere; it is the main language of the internet, finance, diplomacy, music, and the list continues. Currently, there are over 6500 spoken languages in the world, and by the end of the century it is estimated that only hundreds will remain, of which only a small few will actually be spoken. Given English’s increasing universality and the vast advancements in translation technology, why should we even bother learning any other languages at all?
1. To discover a whole new world
Language is not just a useful form of communication, it is also influenced and intertwined with culture and history. The languages we speak shape our perception of the world. They determine the way we see reality, as well as the way in which we come to conceptualise and make sense of that reality. Learning a new language brings us a fresh worldview filled with insights into a new culture’s understanding of life, including different styles of humour and even different notions of time. In other words, to learn a new language is to learn a new way of thinking. It stimulates nuanced and critical thinking in our understanding of our own mother tongue. We are made to question and reconsider our ideas of the world around us, developing a deeper understanding of how our native language and culture were constructed. Developing a multifaceted perspective of the world can only be a good thing, as it allows us to be more empathetic towards others and accepting of their perspectives. This trait is exactly what is needed in the world right now, in a climate where migration is increasingly prominent, and is accompanied with bigotry and xenophobia (the fear/hatred of foreigners). Humans are incredibly blessed to live in a world with many diverse cultures, so learning just one new language opens your mind up to an entire universe of thought, expression, and culture.
2. We are built to learn languages
Everyone can learn a new language. You do not need a special language-acquiring gene. It is a skill that everyone has the ability to practice if given the time. Over centuries, linguists have debated many theories regarding language acquisition, but all in all, research shows that the human brain was innately designed and hardwired to pick up visual and verbal forms of communication over time. In other words, learning languages comes naturally to the human mind.
3. Learning languages is good for us
Learning a new language does not only look impressive on your CV and bring you closer to securing that dream job, it is also incredibly beneficial for our brains too. It enhances decision-making and the ability to multitask, as well as increases one’s attention span. Moreover, it improves our short and long-term memory, which lessens the risk of developing cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s and other causes of dementia. Simply put, multilingualism is healthy, not just for your career prospects, but for your mind.
4. Grow your growth mindset
The acquisition of new languages begins a new path of self-discovery: it stimulates a thirst for knowledge and develops a ‘growth’ mentality, helping you lead a lifetime of learning. The methods of learning are endless when it comes to languages and they are also incredibly flexible. During the learning process, you grow a deeper understanding of how best your brain learns, which helps you develop a clearer perception of yourself as an individual. Also, taking charge of your own progress can be empowering. guiding the pace of your own learning through setting achievable learning goals and challenges. You also discover a new side of yourself, as different languages bring out different elements in us all. As a Persian saying succinctly puts it: a new language is a new life.
5. Why not make the most of your next holiday?
Languages have the unique ability to take you anywhere in the world - both physically and mentally, helping you get so much more out of travelling. Tourists are well received and treated better when they at least make the effort to speak the local language; it shows respect and appreciation for the country and culture, therefore that respect and appreciation is returned. This could present you with certain opportunities that you would not get if you had not spoken the language. On top of this, you yourself as a tourist will feel more comfortable in the new environment. Of course, you may not be fluent in the host language, but again, a bit of effort takes you a long way and will bring you valuable and wholesome human interaction, instead of simply passing Google Translate back and forth.
6. It’s unbelievably easy
Luckily, learning languages has never been easier than it is today. We no longer have to pay loads of money to attend a night class or use records and cassettes like back in the day. With a couple clicks, we can instantly access almost anything and anyone on the internet. There are an overwhelmingly huge number of convenient apps, websites and people that support language learners whenever and wherever, and mostly for free. Some of my favourite language learning tools (just to name a few) are apps like Quizlet and Anki, which are useful memorising vocab, and websites like YouTube, that are especially helpful for improving your listening and pronunciation. Living in this day and age, there has never been a more convenient and appropriate time for us to learn languages...so if you’ve been thinking about it, why not start now?
Learning a new language is an experience incomparable to learning anything else. It is exciting and extremely rewarding! This may sound biased coming from a language student, but to be honest, language acquisition can bring about a lot of positive change in our lives - socially, mentally, and spiritually. So, take charge of your own personal journey: dare yourself to start learning a new language today.
“The limits of my language are the limits of my world.”
- Ludwig Wittgenstein, language philosopher
Cover picture credits: American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Denia is our Lifestyle & Travel Editor and a third year student studying BA French & Arabic at the University of Leeds. She is pursuing a career in international relations and diplomacy and is interested in foreign languages and cultures and filmmaking. Her Instagram handle is @denia_beidaoui.