I was thirteen years old when I started taking my first Spanish class. The only reason I even took the course was because I needed an elective credit and didn’t want to take art (my sister has always been the best artist of the family) or anything music related (I couldn’t sing and I had no interest in playing an instrument, so choir, orchestra, and band were all out of the question). Thus, I ended up with Spanish.
That ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Learning a second language has more benefits than just being able to communicate more effectively with other people. And especially now when most of us are stuck in our homes for most of the day due to COVID-19, now is the perfect time to embark on the process of learning a new language, which, in turn, will help you learn more about yourself.
So, with that said, here are some of the benefits I’ve discovered through my language journey:
It Connects People
I swear, some of my favorite memories involve my Spanish classes, specifically my class during my senior year. My teacher was extremely innovative at finding ways to make reading Spanish literature (we drew scenes from stories out on the windows using window markers, we acted using small Nerf guns and feathered boas, and chanted words to poems while shaking maracas and tapping sticks together). My classmates were all extremely close, and the amount of inside jokes we developed are unparalleled. There’s just something about seeing a group of senior guys (some of them athletes) involve other faculty members and a variety of throwback pop songs in their video project of a Spanish fable that brings people together.
It Can Be a Confidence Booster
One of the nicest compliments I’ve received in my life came during my final year of high school. We had a foreign exchange student from Spain that year at our school, and she took our Spanish class to see what it was like to learn the language for non-native speakers, as well as learn from us the differences between our cultures. I had the pleasure of sitting next to her in class for a period of time (I was scared out of my mind at the start! I thought I would totally be judged, but Carla was so sweet that I looked forward to class everyday), and at a party she told me that I was actually really good with the language. It was a huge confidence booster for me, and it made me feel more self-assured when it came to participating, as well as in other classes.
It’s (Surprisingly) Helped Me With My Anxiety
I developed really bad anxiety at the same time I started taking Spanish. At first, it was one of the things in my life that contributed to my extreme insecurities and constant feelings of nervousness. However, it developed into a chance to be a different person. Because we had to select hispanic names to use in class (which, I’ll admit, can have its drawbacks while also seeming silly), I knew deep down that even if Caitlin had problems speaking in front of her peers because of the fear of sounding stupid, Catalina could do so without a second thought. Now that I’m in college, I’ve come to realize that Caitlin is stronger and is more capable than Catalina will ever be.
Creativity Is Increased
For some reason, my Spanish teachers had an affinity for homework assignments that involved drawing and crafting (and, although I hate admitting it, these were times when I would shuffle up to my sister and ask her to help me because art just isn’t my forte). However, on a much deeper level, learning a second language does help boost your overall creativity. According to RosettaStone, part of the process is learning about a culture that’s different from your own. You have to formulate ways to express your thoughts and feelings in understandable and non-offensive manners (for instance, did you know it’s considered rude to whistle during a sports match in Italy?). You really have to stretch your brain to come up with the mannerisms and words to communicate your thoughts fully, even if your vocabulary is very limited.
Makes Multitasking Seem Less Daunting
It’s true! Being able to speak more than one language helps your brain with its ability to switch back and forth between thoughts and tasks. This increases your ability to work on more than one thing at a time, which also reduces stress because you are able to get more accomplished during the day.
Of course, there are many other positives I could bring up when it comes to foreign languages. However, I think I’ll leave it off with something one of my teachers told us that has stuck with me: Learning a new language is a risk. And, call me crazy, but that’s one risk I’m willing to take.