A friend once told me, “I speak English, so I don’t have to learn a foreign language….“
Everyone speaks English, right? Well, certainly not everyone speaks English. Being able to speak more than one language is simply amazing! It’s like the closest thing humans can have to superpowers. They are able to speak without having trouble mixing the two languages. Aside from that, being bilingual (or multilingual) gives a person an advantage to grow personally and professionally because (1) he will be able to communicate and understand more people; (2) improve his ability to learn; (3), have better opportunities of employment; and (4) it’s a great mental workout.
Let me tell you a story about my recent trip to Tokyo. One of the most challenging part of traveling is getting around the place. I was in the middle of Shinjuku train station trying to find my way out (Shinjuku station has a lot exits, mind you). I tried to ask for directions: ‘Sumimasen? Eigo ga hanasemasu ka?’ (Excuse me, can you speak English?). After getting 3 ‘iie’ (no), I finally spoke with someone who speaks English, he showed me the way out and even hailed me a cab. What a sweetheart. ❤
That is only one of the awesome things if you can speak more than one language!
Traveling through a foreign country becomes much easier if you can speak the language of that country. Fluency isn’t required. Being able to converse with locals, read printed media and literature, understand TV and radio, deal with problems, socialize and simply take part in day-to-day life makes the experience richer and more meaningful. Plus, locals anywhere appreciate that you’ve taken the time to at least attempt to learn and communicate in their tongue. It shows a greater level of respect and is an easy way to meet new people.
The most common example is that bilinguals have the ability to understand jokes in a different language, while monolinguals try to understand dialog. They also enjoy reading and writing in different languages. They can understand and appreciate literature in various languages. It gives a deeper knowledge of different ideas and traditions.
In addition to that, being bilingual doesn’t necessarily make you smarter, but I do believe that once you’re fluent in more than one language, learning other languages is easier. I grew up learning 4 languages – Filipino, English, basic French (after attending an international school in elementary) and Spanish. I could say that it helps me become more adept at focusing on relevant information and editing out the irrelevant. And have become better at spotting misleading information.
As an employee: Employers are looking for more qualifications that will make an applicant stand out from the crowd. Being bilingual is one of those qualifications. In fact, just last year, CNN Money dubbed bilingualism as the hottest skill for job seekers. It will also help you in salary-negotiations.
As a business owner: When you learn another language, the size of your target market automatically increases for which you can sell your product or service. Remember, an ability to communicate in a second language is valuable, but being able to relate to people from a different background is equally important.
In a recent study of 44 elderly Spanish-English bilinguals, scientists led by the neuropsychologist Tamar Gollan of the University of California, San Diego, found that individuals with a higher degree of bilingualism — measured through a comparative evaluation of proficiency in each language — were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Psycholinguist Ellen Bialystok made the surprising discovery at York University in Toronto while she was comparing an ageing population of monolinguals and bilinguals. “The bilinguals showed symptoms of Alzheimer’s some four to five years after monolinguals with the same disease pathology,” she says.
Still not convinced? Researchers from Northwestern University as led by Viorica Marian, reported that bilingualism might delay a diagnosis of dementia because “using another language provides the brain built-in exercise.”
Anyone who has told you that learning another language is impractical, unrewarding, or simply a waste of your precious time is doing you a great disservice. Take advantage and enhance your life… Learn another language!