Incredible Journey of Speaking More Than One Language

I grew up in Guatemala, speaking Spanish as my first language. However, America is a powerful and influential country, so it was very typical for us to take English classes since kindergarten - speaking English came naturally. Becoming bilingual has been very standard and easy to accomplish for most foreigners since the majority begin at an early age – the perfect time when one is susceptible to learning new things. Learning the English language has opened a lot of doors for me and my future. Now, at college, students have to fulfill language requirements, but I thought why not learn another one? Even though I had no obligation to. So I decided to take Italian. At first, I thought it would be easy for me since I already had the Spanish background, but there were its perks and downsides too. The first day of class, my professor spoke Italian, no English, so I was one of the few who could understand a little of what she said, others had no idea what she was telling them to do. I liked that, you begin to get a sense of the sounds and rhythms of the words. However, sometimes it became tough and frustrating because I would often confuse Spanish with Italian and understand the words all mixed up.

Learning another language is, without doubt, a challenge, but that’s because you’re training your brain to do much more complicated things. It expands your capacity for thought in many ways that I never imagined. A study performed by Penn State found out that those who can speak more than one language can outrun those who don’t by being better multitaskers. For me, it became a necessity into having to translate every word into other languages. I consistently find myself thinking in a language other than my native one, it’s fascinating. It has become a natural instinct to receive, edit and discard information that is irrelevant and focus on what’s important. Another research made by members of the University of Chicago discovered that speaking more than one language leaves more room for higher rational thought, with less bias. By speaking a foreign language, we tend to overpass varying options when making a decision. It’s interesting how knowing a foreign language also gives the ability to reduce loss aversion. That’s because we develop a stronger cognitive and emotional distance while examining risk factors when making a decision. At my college classes, especially the trivial ones like a philosophy class, I have noticed that my brain enters a sort of “mental gym.”

​I’ve begun to train my mind into enabling me to perceive and evaluate challenging topics much faster in other languages. I still have a long way to go with Italian, but it has opened my eyes towards countless things in life. If you’re learning a language or thinking of acquiring one, don’t get discouraged. What's not to love? learning how to roll your R's, and find new ways of saying things! It indeed is a challenge, but so worth it when it comes to your mental health. Besides, you’ll get to know more cultures, people, and it’s become a lot of fun as well.