Is Learning a Foreign Language a Waste of Time?
- Jan 22, 2015
Imagine being an immigrant in a foreign land, away from your near ones and familiar surroundings! You might be posted in this new country on account of a job transfer or a new job. Or, for pursuing your higher education. And, your professional commitments require you to reside here for at least a few years.In this scenario, what is the first thing that hits you straight across your face? Well, friends, it is the ‘language’. Let me make myself clearer. The moment you arrive at a new continent or nation, you bump against the language barrier – as the native language of the place is completely alien to you. Here is a country where nobody can understand your mother tongue, nor can you comprehend their language!Naturally, it makes you feel like a fish out of water. Frustration and anxiety are the common emotions that engulf you in the form of a gaping ‘communication gap’. Simple chores like ordering your lunch, or fixing up an appointment with the dentist seems challenging. And you tell yourself, “I wish I had learnt this foreign language before I left my homeland.”So, is learning a foreign language truly a waste of time? On the contrary, I feel being multilingual helps you in several unique ways:
- Enhances brain power: Any language is a complete package with new meanings, etymology and rules. Moreover, learning a new language is an uphill task for most of you. As you try to identify new letters, words, sentences and analyze them to interpret their significance, you brain works harder. For, now the brain is responsible for recognizing the new structure of foreign language. This way the brain is constantly under pressure to form new ideas and understand words when you read or speak them.
- Delays Alzheimer’s Disease: Since learning a new language ensures brain fitness, it indirectly checks maladies like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Researchers have proved how bilingual people are more prone to develop Alzheimer’s at seventy-five years of age while monolingual people display it’s symptoms at seventy-one. This is because the more you exercise the brain, the sharper it becomes. So if you prefer being idle, your brain tends to turn rusty, just like a knife that hasn’t been utilized for a long time develops rust!
- Improves career prospects: If you were an employer, wouldn’t you give a higher preference to a candidate knowledgeable in a foreign language? Or would you hire somebody who is proficient only in his mother tongue, national language and English? Obviously, you would opt for the first kind of candidate who is more impressive. Knowing one or more foreign language implies your eagerness to learn, smart decision-making capabilities and great communication skills. An organization is more likely to hire somebody who can be easily transferred to overseas locales.
- Refines first language: One of the best benefits of learning a foreign language is that your first language becomes more refined. When you attempt to learn any language, you focus on its grammar, idioms, vocabulary, sentence construction and other intricate details. And while you do so, you are continuously using the English language for translation purposes. Or, any other first language that’s familiar to you. It makes you stronger in your own language as you’re spending more time on it while learning a new language.
- Boosts memory: As I’ve mentioned earlier, your brain power is increased to a great extent when you try learning anything new, especially a new language. For instance, if you are trying to imbibe French, you must memorize how to greet or thank somebody in French. Or, introduce yourself to someone using the French language. While you are at it, your brain tries to remember whatever information you feed it. So your brain learns how to associate words with mnemonics that strengthens your memory.
- Encourages better networking: How often have you longed to speak to that handsome fellow from Germany in your Facebook friends list? But unable to exchange words apart from a simple ‘hello’, as you are unfamiliar with the German language? Humans thrive on social interactions and networking. Imagine how quickly you can expand your social circle if you are acquainted with a few foreign languages! This can help your business grow if you are a businessman. And, if you’re lonely you can find new friends.
- Develops multi-tasking skills: The ability of multitasking makes you cooler. Smarter. As you employ the various tools to learn a new language, you are learning how to switch from your first language to the next. In addition, you are reading, interpreting words and their meanings while practicing the new language. So, you’re actually multitasking. Even when you are translating something from your mother tongue to the foreign language you’re learning, some amount of multitasking is involved. It helps you excel in your career or academics.
- Makes you confident: It is natural for multilingual people to charm others with their self-confidence and dynamic personality. When I went to school, I noticed how some of the most brilliant students of my class oozed confidence before any exam. It was simply because they learnt and revised their lessons thoroughly. Also, they not only knew what was taught in class, but also acquired additional knowledge from reference books and notes. Being familiar with new languages show your keenness to learn about new cultures that’s really impressive!
These are some of the most common ways learning a foreign language can come to your aid. Knowing a new language is truly a blessing in disguise. For instance, you have been employed as an English teacher in Thailand. How can you bond well with your students as well as the local residents of the country of you don’t know Thai? You will experience true happiness only if you can relate to the cultures and traditions of a new country – and this is only possible when you are well versed in the native language of that land.
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