I love languages, and I’ve written about learning Russian. Since then, I’ve discovered numerous benefits to learning languages. Whether you want to learn Arabic, French, Japanese or German, you can reap many benefits.
Here are the benefits of learning a language:
Understand Foreign Language Media
News, books, films, comics: all await you. When you master a foreign language, your understanding of foreign media will only improve. What’s great about foreign language media is how it differs to English media. If you are learning Turkish, accessing media from Turkey will teach you about the respective culture. This doesn’t mean Turkish media is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than English media: it’s just different.
Language truly shapes our philosophies and histories, and thus, two different languages results in two different cultures. I love how foreign media reminds us of a world outside of the Anglosphere, where things are different. As I learn Russian, I’d love to tackle Tolstoy and Pushkin. There’s much to understand about Russia, and knowing the language and their media is a great way to accomplish that.
Read Historical Sources
History is a labyrinth of information and detail. Underneath the dramatic events, there are mazes of controversy, difference and intrigue. Language ties these puzzles together. Not only can a foreign language help you understand the past with greater clarity, but you can engage with it. From medieval spellbooks in Latin to propaganda posters in Mandarin, the opportunities to engage with history in the 21st century are boundless. Having a language assisting you will make this process easier, and even more enjoyable.
This is especially relevant for those who learn so-called ‘dead’ languages like Latin. To comprehend history, you must understand language.
Sharpen Your English
When you learn a language, you’ll take a closer look at grammar, spelling, word structure and usage. Many English speakers (in my experience) neglect the fundamentals of the English language through sloppy word choice and incorrect grammar.
Learning a language helps you see your native language in a new light. The English language is not a drab tool with little point. It’s a language, full of history, literature and culture. Perhaps it takes learning a language to appreciate the complexities of the English language.
Flesh Out Your Career
Many bloggers and language gurus are quick to comment on the ‘career’ aspects of learning a language. While it’s certainly true a knowledge of Farsi will make you competitive for a job in the public service, I’m not sure this is the best approach to ‘benefits’ in language learning.
Regardless of what your job is, you can reap the benefits of language learning. For example, you may be a graphic designer who learns Russian. With your language skills, you can access designer communities in Russia, as well as enjoy journalism in Russian or any relevant podcast. This is why I view language learning as a career ‘enhancer’ rather than a builder. Sure, there are careers that require very specific language skills. Yet these won’t appeal to everyone, and language learners may become frustrated if they don’t reach their goals in a certain time frame.
Language learning is hard, yet beneficial. Some pressure can help, yet bullying yourself with ‘I’m not good enough in French, therefore no one will hire me’ is unhelpful. This is partially why I majored in Modern History, not Russian, at university. But language degrees are a whole can of worms for another time.
When Will These Benefits Come In?
I don’t know… for you. The benefits I’ve listed are subtle, and can only be appreciated on close examination of oneself. These benefits, although awesome, won’t make you rich or give you a super flashy CV. But they can improve your education / career, approach to language, and how you communicate with others. The value of language learning isn’t found in dollars, or even employment opportunities.
It’s found in the small moments. The joy of translating Latin at the Vatican Museums, comprehending the beauty of written Arabic, speaking Spanish in a hip cafe in Buenos Aires, or decoding a tongue-twister in Russian.