In the United States, many high schools require at least two years of foreign language study for graduation. Unfortunately, most students fulfill this requirement without actually learning enough of the language to carry on more than the most basic of conversations.
While this definitely is useful and can occasionally come in handy, actually becoming fairly fluent in a foreign language provides many more benefits. Although English is still the most common language in the business world, you may be surprised to learn that both Spanish and Mandarin (Chinese) exceed our native tongue in worldwide speakers.
As our world becomes increasingly international, the importance of learning a second (or third) language will only continue to grow.
Accelerate Your Career
Learning a second language will have a substantial effect on your success in business. The ability to converse freely in multiple languages is so important, in fact, that many companies actually offer financial benefits to employees who can achieve fluency.
If you are working with the general US population, you will probably see the greatest professional gain by learning Spanish, but almost every language is spoken somewhere in the melting pot. Whether you are a doctor learning to communicate directly with more of your patients or a customer service representative learning to solve more customer’s problems, expanding your language abilities will provide a major boost to your career.
Sharpen Your Mind
Because learning a second language requires such a paradigm shift, it will provide many intellectual benefits as well. Much like studying a musical instrument, learning a foreign language will provide a mental challenge that will increase your intellectual agility in both school and business.
This effect is so strong that researchers have found each year of language study results in measurable gains on both college and graduate school exams.
Improve Your First Language
Because we are used to speaking, reading, and even thinking in our native tongue since birth, we can often overlook various grammatical errors.
When you learn a second language, your study of the foreign language will force you to draw comparisons and reevaluate your understanding of English grammar. Not only will you learn a second language, but you will actually learn to communicate with more clarity in your first language!
Better Travel Experiences
Traveling either on your own or in a study abroad program provides many opportunities to study a foreign culture and learn to think outside of your own cultures assumptions. As an English speaker in a foreign country, however, your ability to actually experience the countrys real culture will be fairly limited.
By learning a foreign language before traveling, however, you will actually be able to get past the tourist experience to see what the country is really like on the inside. As an added bonus, you can also perfect your language skills during extended stays.
Land a Scholarship
Not only will language learning benefit you in the long-term, but it can also help you pay for college. Many scholarships are available for students who speak a certain language or understand a particular culture. Because these scholarships are offered to a limited group, you will actually have a much higher chance of winning these scholarships than you would in some of the more well known programs.
Do you know a second language?