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“Learning a language is a waste of time”
“People speak English abroad anyway”
“Learning a language is way too difficult!”
… I’m sure you are guilty of saying at least one of these statements.
We Brits are renowned for our ignorance of languages. We expect immigrants to speak English straight off the bat but when we travel abroad, most of us don’t even make an effort to learn the basic phrases in a foreign language. It’s just madness! This is something that I think needs to change and there are so many easy ways of learning a second language.
I studied GCSE Spanish at school, and it was by no means an easy ride. I spent five years trying to master the art of ‘Español’ and I can just about hold a conversation now. Strangely, I can still sing the song that was taught to us to help us memorise the present tense endings of verbs as if it were yesterday. The most daunting part of speaking a second language is having the confidence to put it into practice, especially when you visit a country that speaks it fluently. You’re definitely going to make mistakes to start with, but that’s how you get better!
The beauty of learning a new language is that you will become an even better linguist of your own native language. Your understanding of grammar, pronunciation, word agreement and verb conjugation will be exceptional with two languages in the bag. The only way is up from there!
One of the main advantages of knowing at least one other language is job opportunities. Being bilingual or multilingual is something that should be celebrated and written in bold, capital letters on your CV as it will undoubtedly impress employers. Not only does it mean that you could act, for instance, as a translator and company representative to carry out an overseas business transaction – granted you would have to be fluent in that nation’s language – but it also informs employers that you have better communication skills than most, which will really make you stand out from the crowd.
The benefits of learning a language do not just end there though. And here’s why:
1. It can act as a memory boost
You’re probably expecting a list of scientific facts and statistical data that proves language learning improves our memory but I’m an English student. Instead, I’m just going to tell you that it ‘probably does’ due to the act of having to constantly recall vocabulary and tense endings that we have learnt. You can tell I know absolutely ZILCH about the science behind it all. Joking aside, the study of linguistics is fascinating, and you should definitely check it out or rather, ask someone about it who is far more qualified than me!
2. It increases your ability to multitask
Again, I am not stating that this is scientifically proven but due to bilinguals naturally being fluent in two languages, and having to switch between the two on demand, it tends to strengthen their ability to multitask. Although, your brain will probably feel like a labyrinth of unfamiliar words at first.
3. It broadens the mind
Our brains gradually become more close-minded as we age. Therefore, bilingualism is a great way of staying in the loop and keeping in touch with today’s global culture.
4. Prove the “younger the better” stereotype wrong
It has already been falsified by linguists that the younger you are, the easier it is for you to acquire a second language. In truth, while younger learners are better at L2 acquisition (learning a second language) in a natural environment such as being corrected by their family on a daily basis, older learners are far better equipped to learn in a formal, classroom setting due to them being more mentally mature. However, the more adults and elderly that participate in language learning, the more evidence these scientists will have to eradicate this myth once and for all.
Language learning could not be more accessible with free apps such as Duolingo and Memrise. They test all the necessary skills needed to be fluent in a language such as pronunciation, spelling and grammar, as well as identifying what your stronger and weaker areas are.
Currently, I’m studying German as my subsidiary module in my first year and I am thoroughly enjoying it, despite it being very challenging at times. I guess being bilingual wasn’t enough for me! I hope you can now appreciate the beauty of bilingualism. Who knows, you might just start re-learning French again, which you haven’t spoken since primary school or better yet, you might even start learning Mandarin from scratch. The sky’s the limit!
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