According to a Gallup poll, only 26% of Americans speak a second language, which is shocking considering the range of opportunities that come with being bilingual. If you’ve ever thought about learning Spanish, German, French, or another language, there’s no time like the present to begin the journey.
Consider the following ways that speaking another language can help you:
1. Expand Your Horizons
By learning a second language, you naturally begin to learn about the culture of native speakers. Not only does language represent an important element of a country’s culture, but when you converse with natives in their own tongue, you begin to break down barriers and develop a better understanding of the way they live. It’s truly an eye-opening experience.
2. International Travel Becomes Easier
If you’ve ever traveled internationally, you know the limitations that exist when trying to communicate with locals. Pick up a second language to minimize these limitations. If you have an upcoming trip, learn basic vocabulary and common phrases to help you interact. By asking the locals about their favorite spots, for example, you can avoid tourist traps and save money. Plus, immersive conversations can drastically improve your language skills.
3. Improve Employment Opportunities
If you pick up a second or even third language, you open up a world of employment opportunities as translators are in demand across a range of industries. Learn a foreign language to put yourself ahead of the competition in any position – customer service or otherwise – that deals with a global or specific foreign clientele.
4. Become Smarter
If you learn a second language, you just might become smarter. Bilingual individuals are better at mental multitasking, and the process of learning a new language improves memory and perception. Plus, a study from the University of Chicago indicates that bilinguals enjoy better decision-making skills too.
5. College Admission Is Easier
Including a second language on a college application puts you ahead of the competition, especially at schools where admission requirements are strict. Better yet, many colleges allow fluent bilinguals to place out of required foreign language courses, saving you money on college classes and textbooks.
6. Improve Your English
As you become in tune with verb conjugations, sentence structure, grammar, and syntax in a foreign language, you naturally and necessarily review the nature of their English counterparts. Speaking better English presents a host of opportunities with being a better communicator and writer at the top of the list.
If you want to learn a second language, the Rosetta Stone software is some of the best on the market. If you can afford it, it’s worth it. But if you can’t, consider this strategy: Learn the vocabulary first, then find people who speak the language to converse with. If you have access to an Internet or cable channel that broadcasts in the language, watch an hour each day (in addition to learning common vocabulary). The daily news is a great way to learn as it provides visual cues in the form of images and video, making it easier to follow along and learn sentences and phrases.
About the author: Pedro Rossman is bilingual in English and Spanish. He enjoys reading and writing about travel, money management, and personal development.