Foglesong: Why You Should Learn A Foreign language

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Learning a foreign language can seem like a daunting task, but the benefits of language acquisition make it well worth the struggle. The first few months of learning a new language are the most difficult because you begin to notice how intricate and complex languages are and how much work it will take to speak it fluently. Therefore, it is helpful to keep some of the benefits in your mind to keep you from becoming discouraged.

Most people recognize that speaking another language looks great on a resume and offers you additional career opportunities. Yet, the benefits of learning a language extend well beyond professional opportunities.

Fluency in a foreign language gives you the ability to communicate further than before. That is the potential of millions of conversations and exposures to completely new people with entirely different worldviews. Once you learn a new language you expand your pool of potential friends and colleagues.

Academically, being able to understand another language allows you to view new perspectives on issues most important to you. If you are able to take a class or listen to a speech about Mexican drug cartels in Spanish you will better understand the way Mexicans view the problem.

It is easy to become bored or disenchanted with daily life. In fact, it happens to everyone. Predictability and routine can lead to depression or invoke cynicism. When you are operating in another langue it is as if you are stepping into a new body. You can forget all cynical views of people; you make fewer assumptions about the people you are talking to.

When speaking your new language you may feel more like yourself than ever before. I have been in countless conversations speaking English where I feel awkward and uncomfortable or I don’t have the courage to say something because it may sound corny or simple. When speaking French I spend no time thinking about what to say but only how to say it. This is perhaps the best part of speaking a language.

These benefits may fade as you deepen your fluency and become more attuned to speaking in a particular tongue. In the end, that just adds to the beauty of the process. When you are in the middle stages of learning a new language you have no timidity when it comes to making new friends or telling someone they’re beautiful because your mind is focused on saying those things correctly.

There are so many events and sensations that we don’t have words for in the English language. As you begin to expand your vocabulary in a new language you will find words to describe things you once thought were unexplainable, which can lead to a greater understanding of life experiences. Learning a new language will make you a happier, smarter and better person.

letters@chronicle.utah.edu

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