Why Learning a Language Should Be Your New Passion in 2021

Hello! ¡Hola! Olá. 안녕하세요.

At least four different people understood a part of that phrase. Or maybe the whole phrase?

The ability to dominate more than one language has exceptional benefits for our mental and social health, and 2021 is definitely the opportunity you've been waiting for to learn another one.

It improves your mental health

Have you ever heard that kids are like sponges? This saying describes the childhood phase where we absorb anything and everything we receive from our surroundings through our five senses. With a fresh mind, we quickly register the elements and practices we need to live, such as knowing how to speak, walk, eat; more complex things, like reading and analyzing; and personal things, like communicating your feelings. The first years of our lives give us the tools to navigate life. Of course, we know it isn’t that easy once you’re grown up because we are still learning, but the same thing happens with languages!

Not being a kid anymore doesn’t mean you’re not capable of learning; it’s never too late. And as life experiences help us to keep maturing, learning a new language will help your brain to remain active, in constant training, even though you think you’re just having fun.

Studies show that by learning a new language, we become smarter and more capable of making decisions, improving other academic skills, developing our capacity to manage situations, and helping to reduce the risk of mental illness. It’s a chance to exercise our brain, mix things up and challenge our apprehension to expand our neurological system’s capacity.

It also improves your social skills and opportunities

On the other hand, can you imagine yourself in the center of that city you always dreamed of but you can’t understand anyone around you so you just end up eating something you’re allergic to, or get off on the wrong bus stop, or worse, you accidentally spend an absurd amount of money?!

Since the 1980s, the benefits of knowing a foreign language have been studied, revealing important contributions to our development. There was a social transition from being satisfied with a single language, to developing a desire in learning others simultaneously with the desire to travel. There are two other pretty important aspects about learning languages that I want to mention.

Pixabay

The first one is the cultural one. Knowing another language keeps you more connected with other cultures you’re exposed to. English already keeps us on track, being one of the most popular and easier languages to communicate with others, but the native language of wherever you’re visiting will help to understand the reality of the country: the local traditions, the complexity of their political issues, stereotypes, history, and general problems the society is suffering from. Such proximity will enrich your stay in that other part of the world.

Learning languages also represents an advantage for your professional career. What employer wouldn’t hire a person that dominates several languages? A business owner could make their businesses more diverse, and, of course, provide easier communication from owner-to-owner; a reporter could have higher success in coverage as a correspondent in another country; a teacher could help a new foreign student to stay on track in classes. Your resume will automatically look better with that extra skill! You’ll have the possibility to shine and position yourself at the top of the workplace.

But where should I start?

I'm pretty sure you don’t want to watch your favorite anime, drama, or TV show with subtitles forever. Or maybe you prepare an oral report for your history class and fall in love with that foreign country you investigated. Or simply, why not? You may have descended from a different cultural background in which, at least not yet, you haven't had the opportunity of exposure to learn the language. Here are some options to keep in mind:

  1. 1. Look for college courses

    Check your school’s/college’s Foreign Languages program and investigate how to enroll in a class. You don’t need to start studying it formally as a career; first, try it out and get familiarized with it. If you’re not enrolled in any study program, some universities have external options to allow people that are not necessarily enrolled as students to learn a language, such as the DECEP at the University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras campus. This program provides classes for Japanese, Portuguese, Chinese, English, and Spanish. Save some boxes and apply!

  2. 2. Take personalized classes

    Laptop and notebook

    Some people who really love and study foreign languages may offer personal classes to small study groups. I’ve also seen announcements in the streets or via ads on social media. Most of these people turn to online classes, but they’re still an option. You just need the determination and discipline to practice day by day.

  3. 3. Consume media in that other language

    Photo of a television displaying a netflix screen

    Watching series, movies, and music videos (with subtitles!), and also listening to music in another language will help you a lot, believe it or not. It does not mean it'll be easier to learn, but it’s a great way to start in this journey while you find the right instructor for you.

  4. 4. Use apps

    Another way to learn on your own while you search for the opportunity to learn with a professor is introducing yourself to the language through phone applications. Sounds like the kind of thing you would quit on the third day, but there are plenty of apps to choose from which include colorful patterns, games, and other features to help you out with your learning and motivate you to be consistent. Duolingo and Google Translator are two of them. Remember, this does not substitute knowledge from an expert, but, in reality, learning a language may not be affordable for everybody right now, so this is a great way to start.

If you’re interested in learning a new language and have all of the possibilities that come with it, stop doubting yourself! It’s the best thing you can do in an era where social media connects us with so many other people, and in this COVID-19 era that has completely changed our routines. Learn it now in 2021 to rock it in 2022!