Language learning can put a strain on your time, energy, and yes, sometimes your wallet, which is why it’s so often difficult to truly commit. If you know anything about effectively learning a language, you’re aware that you’ll have to dedicate time on a daily basis to the goal of conquering a new tongue. If you’re currently stuck in the language learning trenches, you may be wondering if all that effort is really going to pay off. I’m here to tell you that it will! Learning a new language is arguably one of the best things you can do, and here’s 5 ways that it’s sure to change your life.
“Learning another language is not only learning different words for the same things, but learning another way to think about things.” – Flora Lewis
It may not seem like it right now, but learning French, or Chinese, or Hindi is going to give you a clearer insight into each of these cultures. Language and culture pretty much come joined at the hip and it’s impossible to have one without the other. Which is why learning a new language is going to open your eyes to the subtleties of a completely different culture in ways you never imagined. For example, in Chinese, when someone gives you a compliment, the appropriate response is not ‘Thank you’ (‘xie-xie’), but ‘Nali-nali’ (which translates as ‘where, where’). Why? Because in Chinese culture saying ‘Thank you’ means you accept the compliment as true, and lack a humble nature. This is a cultural subtlety you would miss out on if you never learned the language!
“One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.” – Frank Smith
If you think you’ve plateaued in your career, then maybe learning a new language is the key to growth! Being bilingual or multilingual makes you much more marketable than your typical monolingual. Recent surveys done with head hunters in Europe, Latin America, and Asia shows that 9 out of 10 say being bilingual is a critical part of finding success in our modern-day business world. There’s also greater likelihood that you’ll earn more, have access to a wider range of jobs, and find more opportunities to work abroad if you speak more than one language. Knowing that other tongue could indicate some huge life changes and chances to explore the world!
“With languages, you are at home anywhere.” – Edmund de Waal
Travel offers some of the greatest experiences you can have, but knowing the language of the place you are visiting can make it many times more enriching! When you aren’t able to speak the local language, you are limited to experiencing everything on the surface—usually as a typical tourist. But when you speak the language, you can really dive in and immerse yourself in the local culture and way of life. You won’t be afraid to venture outside your comfort zone and try new things, and you’ll find yourself interacting in a more intimate way. Booking a hotel, travelling off the beaten track to a small village, or even asking for directions can all be taken in a stride, and you’ll have much more fun with the language knowledge than without, I promise.
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“Learning another language is like becoming another person.” – Haruki Murakami
The minute you begin learning another language, your circle of potential friends increases. Knowing how to speak more than one language creates a wide array of opportunities for meeting and making friends from around the world. Suddenly, you have an ‘in’ with native speakers of the language you’re learning, and chances to practice it. But I’m not just talking about those who speak it, you’ll make friends amongst fellow language learners too! I’m still in touch with more than a few classmates from my year in Taiwan learning Chinese. No one will quite understand what you’re going through (and be willing to practice with you) the way another language learner will. Being able to engage with native speakers and other learners alike will push your boundaries for socialising, but it will be totally worth it.
“A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers.” – Cesar Chavez
Learning a new language requires a huge amount of discipline and a willingness to make a fool of yourself in the name of knowledge. But the willpower you gain through the language learning process is something that will stick with you through life—and change your life as well. Once you discover that you can successfully learn a new language, applying that same self-discipline to other aspects of your life will seem a lot more natural. Suddenly, getting fit, quitting smoking, or learning to dance salsa won’t be quite so daunting.
Do you speak more than one language? What are some of the ways learning another language has changed your life?