The Challenges and Benefits of Learning a New Language
Each of us, at one time or another, has thought about learning a new language. Whenever an ad for a language app like Duolingo or Babbel pops up on TV or our Facebook Feed, we think to ourselves, “I should try that. I’ve always wanted to learn French (or some other language).” All too soon, however, for most of us, the notion slips out of our thoughts and disappears into the ether. Perhaps it’s time to think more seriously about actually taking the time to become proficient in another language and consider the challenges and benefits of doing so.
Some of us are more naturally inclined to picking up languages than others of us. For those of us who fit into the second category, taking the plunge can be daunting, especially if we have memories of struggling with a foreign language in school or university.
Deciding what course of study to embark on is also a challenge. In-person classes offered by language learning centers provides one option. Learning at home with Rosetta Stone; language apps; Udemy, online learning on the student’s schedule; or Preply, private online lessons from a tutor, provides another. Taking immersion classes in the country where the language is spoken is also worth considering. To decide on any of these options depends on whether we want to be guided by a teacher or by ourselves in our learning.
One of the biggest challenges may be finding the time. Carving out hours in our already busy days or evenings, or committing to a bank of time, isn’t easy. Keeping these challenges in mind, let’s look at the benefits of learning a language that might make the challenges worth it.
Mental exercises are good for our brain. Learning a new language improves its power. Because our brain has to deal with complexities involving a different set of rules and structures, we increase our cognitive and problem-solving skills, which is a benefit in both our personal and professional lives. And, because we have to be able to recall and apply what we learn, learning a new language improves our memory.
In a world made more accessible by air travel and the Internet, it is becoming increasingly important to be fluent in at least one additional language in order to do business and to network efficiently. It stands to reason then, if you are job-hunting, having a second language will increase your chances of having the career you want, or if you have a job, it will help you advance in your career.
There are also life-enhancing benefits to possessing a second language. Being able to communicate with a friend or colleague in their language strengthens our connection with them and improves our understanding of their culture. It also increases our self-confidence. Learning a new language takes time, commitment, and perseverance. Once we have succeeded, the sense of accomplishment is reward in itself.
Learning a new language is challenging. Even before we get started, there are practical matters that need to be worked out. Once these have been surmounted, however, and we have succeeded in achieving our goal, our lives are enriched by its many benefits.