The task of learning a new language can seem daunting – and even unnecessary – for native English speakers. Because the language is so widely spoken around the world, most people can get by using English wherever they go. But the benefits of learning a second language go beyond the need to simply get by as a world traveler, and can have an impact on our lives back home as well.
As the world becomes more interconnected, it is increasingly likely that many aspects of our daily lives will feature contact with people from other nations and cultures, whether through work, travel, or school. Learning another language, rather than using an interpreter or relying on bare minimum English, enables us to communicate on a much deeper level with others, allowing for real conversations that attend to the nuances of meaning. Moreover, language is a window into culture. Understanding the way ideas are expressed in a particular language and immersing oneself in this new mode of expression offers valuable insights into the larger culture in which its speakers participate.
Language learning confers important cognitive benefits to the learner as well. Studies have shown that language learning promotes growth in the language centers of the brain. Moreover, the ability to speak two or more languages seems to delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease in susceptible people by about five years. Other benefits of bilingualism include improved memory, multitasking ability, attentiveness, and the capacity to hear and understand language. Although most studies have been done on people bilingual since childhood, research is showing that these cognitive benefits also apply to adult language learners.
Believe it or not, the process of learning another language can help you understand your native language better. Studying the rules of grammar and usage for a different language makes you more aware of language rules in general and gives you a new sense of the structure of your own.
Have Fun and Build Confidence
Learning a language takes effort and persistence. It is also fundamentally a social endeavor. We learn language best by having to use it, and that means communicating with others, whether in one-on-one conversations or through writing. Language learning also benefits from immersion into the culture, and the Internet today offers a multitude of opportunities for listening to music, watching movies, or accessing news in other languages. In all of these ways, learning a language can be a truly fulfilling experience, drawing us out of a single perspective and introducing us to a whole new way of seeing, thinking, and experiencing the world.