You might know that learning a new language is good for you (yes, bilingualism really is that great), but did you know that it’s also great for the rest of the world – and that it’ll likely transform your life, especially if you immerse yourself in the culture as well?
Here are 20 of the most interesting ways that learning a language changes the world:
1. To put it simply, the more languages people choose to learn, the better the world can communicate and relate to each other. Not sure where to start? Invest in your English skills – it’s the world’s lingua franca after all.
2. Better communication also means less room for mistakes. Mistranslations can be costly in business and can be the reason you find yourself at the bus station after asking for directions to the grocery store (nobody will be able to give you those minutes back).
3. Learning languages is great for sharing cultures, growing communities and understanding what’s important and special to other people – understanding and caring paves the way for peace.
4. It opens the door to many more opportunities for all kinds of businesses by allowing access much wider client and customer bases around the world – this is true for anything from arts (movies, pop etc.) to engineering.
5. If you choose to study a language abroad, the immersive and sometimes challenging aspect of living the new language day in, day out and doing so together with people from all over the world, means you develop soft skills such as communication, conflict-resolution and problem-solving way faster and more naturally than you would back home.
6. There’s a reason speaking a second or third language looks great on your CV: employers love skilled employees who are great communicators because they impact the bottom line. In the UK, where language learning during school is not heavily prioritised, the resulting language deficit costs the country up to £48bn (GBP) per year in lost international business opportunities.
7. Learning a new skill (including languages!) has been shown to be good for your mental health; it challenges you to keep those neurons firing and it can be a huge confidence boost as you watch yourself improve.
8. It’s one of the best ways to make new friends all over the world…
9. … and build up a professional international network which can help you get ahead in your career.
10. Uh, it’s also totally polite! When travelling, being able to at least summon a few sentences in your host country’s native tongue earns major brownie points and keeps everybody happy. The more you can speak, the better your experience with the locals will be – and the more bridges you’ll build.
11. It makes it easier for researchers and innovators to share their developments with the world and with other researchers, so everyone can benefit from the latest advances in science, healthcare and technology. This is particularly true of academic papers written in English – they get referenced much more often and thus have a bigger impact.
12. People who speak multiple languages are often great at creative problem-solving because learning a language teaches you to look at the world (and problems!) from a different perspective.
13. Teamwork makes the dream work. And what makes international teams work? Strong communication built on great language skills.
14. Language learning is great for improving your memory and is thought to delay the effects of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Dementia. These diseases put pressure on our healthcare systems and economies all over the world, so encouraging language learning could help our care systems as well as helping sufferers cope.
15. It makes travelling much easier if you can read local signs and ask people for help. Which is great, because travel is the best education and it makes you a better person too.
16. Learning languages helps unlock access to many of the diverse and incredible array of cultures and histories that make up the world, and looking further afield than your own country can be a huge source of creative inspiration.
17. As different cultures get to know each other and work together, we get more diversity in schools and workplaces, which boosts productivity and creativity, especially in business.
18. Learning languages and engaging with other cultures helps the world become a more accepting and open-minded place. This is particularly important for young people who may actually find that their ‘tribe’ can be found among young people from a distant new corner of the world. This can contribute to a more peaceful, connected world by breaking down very real barriers of communication – and really connecting us with others.
19. During the process of learning more than one language, your brain gets better at managing internal conflict and making decisions, particularly if you start learning young. Some studies even show that bilingual people are better multitaskers!
20. Bilingual and multilingual employees often earn more. In the US, one study estimates you can earn around 2% more each year by speaking a second language, but this amount rises the more in-demand your second language is: speaking German is very useful in industry and international business for the US, so German-speakers can earn 3.8% more on average.