Why you should learn a new language

Most of Indians can read, write and speak at least two languages, as a part of the schooling curriculum that is stipulated in the education boards both at the central level and at the state level. As we grow old, our knowledge of these languages improves and becomes part of our daily life. As a result, we have never stopped and wondered how our bilingual or multilingual nature affects us.
Written by: Raghunath J

The 8th-century Roman king Charles the Great, also known as Charlemagne, said To have another language is to possess a second soul. This understanding about the great utility of another language extended to the present day, when the 21st century english author Geoffrey Willans famously said You can never understand one language until you can understand two. Even if you are sceptical about such broad poetic claims, knowing another language does have tangible and positive effects on the human brain and results in many other advantages in the employment market place as well as in life itself.

Neurological Effects

Researchers Dr. Viorica Marian and Anthony Shook have found[1] that learning a new language improves brain capacity in terms of attention and switching between tasks. This is because, most of us, even while using another language, think in our native tongue. So, this way we inhabit one language while still using another. This happens seamlessly and increases our capacity to switch between tasks. This task-switching capacity can be seen even in infants who are as young as seven months old. It is known that they improve their ability to adapt to changing surroundings if they grow up in bilingual surroundings, i.e., if the family members and other caregivers speak more than one language in the vicinity of the infant. If you think learning a new language can be done only during childhood, think again. Age is never a barrier to learn a new language. More so because even senior citizens see the benefits of learning a new language. The same study shows that elderly people who are bilingual are less prone to loss of memory and cognitive functions than those who are monolingual.

Social life

As we learn new language(s), we become better at translation between languages, that improves our overall communication skills and helps develop logical and correlational thinking. As a result, we can understand ourselves and others better, convey our thoughts and feelings in a better way. Additionally, you must have noticed that there are some words in one language that don’t have an equivalent in another language. This is because, the very genesis of that word is rooted in the culture of that region, in their outlook of life, as lived by the residents in those regions on a daily basis. So, learning a new language – and thereby the ideas that were not fully explored in our languages – helps us explore the culture and arts of another region. All of this results in improved empathy for our fellow human beings, in all their textures and differences, while still helping us recognize that what we have in common is much bigger than what divides us.

Job opportunities

Learning two or more languages adds much weight to your resume. This means that you, as an applicant can be considered for more jobs than if you spoke only one language. Moreover, your profile would be attractive to employers who would save on the the costs they would otherwise incur as a part of language training. Such advantages apply not just in the global localization industry, but in many other fields as well.

Example 1

Hospitality / Tourism : This industry involves interacting with customers who either do not speak the local language or even if they do, prefer their native tongue to the local one. In such cases, being able to speak the customer’s native language, in addition to the local one, will improve interaction with the customer, makes them feel at home and leads to increased trust and profitability to the firm.

Example 2

Journalism : If you are either a foreign correspondent in another country or, in a multilingual country like India, posted in another state, it is a huge advantage to learn the local language in addition to the one in which you report the news. It is a known fact among the journalism community that having a conversation in the local language opens up the people you are chatting with, to share more information as well as valuable insight, that can not be gained by using a non-native tongue.

Do you agree with our reasons on learning a new language? Do you have more? Please let us know in the comments, we are eager to hear from you!

References :

[1] Marian, V., & Shook, A. (2012). The cognitive benefits of being bilingual. Cerebrum : the Dana forum on brain science, 2012, 13.

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