When you want to learn a foreign language, you may find it difficult to lock yourself up in a class, or sit yourself down at your desk at home, without having a real goal that inspires you and pushes you on.
However, there are so many wonderful benefits of learning a second language – it is not only about getting a promotion in your company, or being able to travel confidently in a fascinating country you’ve always wanted to visit.
In this article you’ll find 34 unobvious and surprising facts and figures collected by various researchers to support one inspiring idea:
Learning a second language makes you smarter, healthier and more communicative.
Is that difficult to believe?
Custom Writing collected the most impressive advantages of learning a second language.
Read on to see what the linguists have to tell us!
Learning a foreign language helps you improve math skills
- People who learn one or more languages think faster than those who know only their mother tongue. To be exact, coming up with the answer to a simple math task, like “What is 2 x 6 + 10 : 5?” takes 3.5 seconds on average if you are a language learner and 4 seconds on average if you don’t speak any other language. That means that bilinguals outperform monolinguals by 12.5% when they need to solve easy math tasks.
- To perform better in math, you need to learn a foreign language – even if you learn it instead of math. In their research, ACTFL investigated how learning a second language helps children to perform better in school. According to the results, those students who studied a foreign language outperformed their classmates in an MCAS test after 2 years of foreign language classes. And after 7 years of learning a language, they became incomparably good at math.
- To find out how much time you need to spend on second language learning to perform better in math, we turn to the University of Michigan’s Language Learning Journal. Their research showed that only 1.5 hours per week of foreign language learning, for just one semester, is enough to outperform your peers in math.
- Bilinguals also have better analytical skills. In one study, researchers asked bilingual and monolingual children to choose the smallest of three toys placed in front of them. Monolingual children were correct approximately 50% of the time, while bilingual children picked the right object 77% of the time.
- The International Journal of Bilingualism published a study where researchers investigated the analytical skills and logic of monolingual and bilingual children. There were 121 participants, and the study showed that the 62 children who spoke a foreign language achieved significantly higher results than monolingual kids.
- A Florida study shows that bilingual children tend to score an average of 23–34 points higher in language and math tests.
- Learning a foreign language also improves your focus. People who speak two or more languages tend to pay attention for a time span that is 20% longer than monolingual people can manage.
These studies prove that learning a second language is a fantastic cognitive exercise that can not only improve communication skills but also be applied to a range of skills in the sphere of mathematics, analytics, and problem-solving.
Second language learning prevents mental diseases
- When we learn a language, we fight depression and stress, and even delay mental illnesses. A study by the American Journal of Public Health reveals that children who speak two languages have lower levels of behavioral problems and show aggression, sadness, and loneliness less frequently than monolingual children. Further, they rarely experience anxiety and stress.
- An American Academy of Neurology study showed that learning languages also increases the number of neural pathways in the brain, which means that information is processed through a greater number of channels, which helps with short- and long-term memory.
- Washington State University analyzed 63 studies to establish that bilingual people outperform monolinguals in many activities related to attention, working memory, and abstract and symbolic skills.
- Foreign language learners can delay severe mental diseases related to aging. Dr. Bialystok's research showed that people who speak two or more languages fend off the onset of dementia for an average of 4 years. According to the data, an average age when bilingual patients begin to experience dementia symptoms is 75, and they visit a doctor at 78 – for monolingual patients these ages are 71 and 75.
Psychologists often advise patients who suffer from depression to learn a second language to help overcome their illness. This advice is based on two reasons:
- Learning a language makes your brain grow. A Lund University study showed that the human brain significantly increases after 3 months of learning a foreign language. Moreover, it increases in 4 different parts, which improves cognitive functions and helps learners to think faster. That means that polyglots apply a lot of mental effort every daily. And mental exercises are an important part of overcoming depressive diseases.
- When you start learning a foreign language, your vision of the world can change remarkably. Not only are you exposed to new expressions, ideas, and people, but you practice making conversation, communicating with new groups of people, strengthening connections and forming relationships – which is all wonderful for your wellbeing.
- Another language learning benefit is that being bilingual helps people to recover from brain injury faster. A recent study of 600 Indian stroke survivors showed that the chances of recovery were twice as high for those who speak several languages as for monolinguals, while 40% of bilinguals, but only 20% of monolinguals, had normal cognitive functions.
- Multilingual people have 0.05 additional cubic millimeters of gray matter in their brain, found in the parietal regions. The parietal lobes integrate sensory information and represent the world around us.
Foreign language learners become better communicators in every language
- If you learn the English language, there’s good news for you: the British Council forecast that by 2020 there will be over 2 billion people around the world who speak English. Compare that to the 2016 world population of 7.5 billion people, and you can be sure that wherever you go, there will be someone who speaks the same language as you!
English is by far the most popular language around the world, compared with other languages that are spoken by fewer people in smaller geographical areas. But are there any benefits of learning a language other than English?
Surveys say: yes.
- Studying a foreign language, we become more open-minded and less likely to feel prejudice towards people who are different from us. Psychology professor Krista Byers-Heinlein tested 48 bilingual and monolingual children to find out how speaking two languages affects children’s views of life. The professor asked the children to answer two questions: “If a child was born to English parents and adopted by Italians, would they speak English or Italian? If a duck was raised by dogs, would it quack or bark?” The results were amazing. Bilingual children thought that everything one knows is learned, and monolinguals thought that everything is inherited. Bilingual children even said that a duck would bark and run instead of flying if it were raised by dogs.
- According to Kaplan International, speaking more than one language even makes you more attractive to other people. This idea was supported by 270 British dating agencies. What’s more, there’s no reason to be shy about your accent – dating agencies have published many lists of the most appealing accents in the world! They include Irish, Brazilian, French, Italian, and Spanish.
Learning a second language helps people to learn other languages faster
Because their memory grows and improves as they learn a language, and because so many languages share common roots, bilingual people find it easier and faster to learn even more languages and become multilingual.
- The International Journal of Humanities and Social Science investigated how learning Latin affects children’s knowledge of the English language. Kids in grades 2 to 4 studied a Latin program for one year. It consisted of 15–20 minutes of Latin lessons each day. An English vocabulary measure showed that children who undertook the Latin program were functioning at their grade level, while those who hadn’t studied Latin scored 1 year below their grade level.
- When it comes to vocabulary and learning a language, it’s much more effective to learn several languages simultaneously. This approach can save a lot of time – instead of spending 1.5 years on becoming a fluent speaker in one language, it takes 2 years to master 2 of them.
- Other research shows that 54% of preschool-age bilingual children can distinguish words by their meaning, while the majority of monolingual elementary students are not able to do so – they separate words by sound.
Learning a second language benefits your career
- One of the main advantages of learning a foreign language is that you can open up a whole new world when it comes to your career, which can mean better pay and conditions for you in your job. Whether you work in the IT sphere, the services industry, journalism or marketing, you’ll have the edge over other applicants, even if the job you’re applying for doesn’t specifically require a second language. What’s more, you’ll see lots of vacancies that do require the language you can speak.
- Eton Institute’s language development unit stated that 89% of people think that multilingual workers add value to companies, and 88% commented that they prefer to hire multilingual rather than monolingual people. That means that if you know one or more foreign languages you have a better chance of getting a job. Moreover, it’s easier for you to get a promotion or become an irreplaceable worker, especially if your company is an international one.
- Your ability to speak a second language is reflected in the salary you’re paid. Kaplan International states that in various spheres workers who speak one or more languages can expect a salary uplift of up to 20% in the near future. Furthermore, a third of businesses search for employees specifically for their skills.
- The British Chambers of Commerce established that 60% of companies that want to expand their businesses in other countries experience language barriers. So if you know one or more foreign languages then that makes you a more desirable employee.
- According to a Chiswick and Miller study among immigrants in the USA, those who speak the English language earn 15–19% more than those who speak only their native language. Similar surveys in other countries had similar findings. For example, in Canada immigrants who speak one of the official languages, as well as their mother tongue, earn salaries that are 10–12% higher.
Even if you don't work in a big international company, you can still profit from learning foreign languages.
- Data from the European Journal of Marketing indicates that customers at restaurants give higher tips if they are served in their native language rather than in their second language. At the same time, it doesn’t matter how experienced in the language a worker is – it’s more important for customers to hear people speaking their language.
Don’t forget that learning a foreign language sets you on the path to mastering the skill and becoming an interpreter or translator. If you’re open to working in this sphere, there is good news for you.
- The US Department of Labor stated that in the next 10 years we should expect a 42% increase in jobs for translators interpreters.
- In the USA, interpreters and translators are included on the top 15 fastest growing occupations. CNN forecasts there will be 25,000 translation and interpreter jobs available by 2020.
- The Economist revealed the annual bonuses of bilingual speakers in the USA. The data showed that the bonuses were 1.5% for Spanish speakers, 2.3% for French speakers, and 3.8% for German speakers.
- 42% of UK citizens would move to another country to develop their career if they could fluently speak the native language of the country.
Second language learning helps you travel
Of course one of the main benefits of language learning is communication. This is especially important for business trips and vacations. If you want your trip to another country to be successful, you should know at least the basic vocabulary of the language you’re visiting.
Of course, the English language can help you solve the majority of misunderstandings and little troubles – so you should know it when traveling.
But there are also countries where it’s difficult to find English speakers – for example, some Asian countries. So it's useful for travelers to know at least a couple of words of a country’s official language.
- The creators of educational app Babbel did a survey to establish the motivations of their users for learning languages. They asked 5,000 users why they decided to learn a foreign language, and 53% of respondents answered that they want to communicate better while traveling. According to this statistic, traveling is the best motivation for people to learn a language. Other motivations included interest and keeping mentally fit.
- Doors open to people who speak a country's official language. A Kaplan International survey showed that 97% of respondents thought that knowing another language made traveling easier.
- Nowadays, there are excellent opportunities to become an international student. Since 1975, the number of international students in the USA has increased from 800,000 to 3,500,000. Each year this number increases by 12%.
It’s vital to keep in mind the benefits of language learning, so that you stay motivated in your studies. You can accomplish a lot of things on your own if you know a country’s native language – find new friends, understand excursions and movies, find your way without getting lost, and much more.
But there are also a lot of troublesome situations when you can be overloaded with assignments and exercises. So when you’re struggling to put in the time to learn a language, just come back to this article as a reminder of how many advantages you’ll gain by pushing on through. Good luck!