Read these 7 Why Learn a Foreign Language? Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Learning Languages tips and hundreds of other topics.
The first thing to do is to ask yourself why you want to learn a new language.
Is it just for fun or do you need it for your job? Is it because you fell in love with someone or because you want to go on vacation to a foreign country?
Deciding why you want to learn a language gives you better insight in which way to learn it: a do-it-yourself course or going to a school?
Professionals who know other languages are called on to travel and exchange information with people in the United States and other countries throughout their careers. Knowing more than one language enhances opportunities in government, business, law, medicine and health care, teaching, technology, the military, communications, industry, social service, and marketing. An employer will see you as a bridge to new clients or customers if you know a second language. You are also more likely to win the trust and friendship of people whose languages you know -- even if you know just a little of their language. Even something as seemingly minor as being able to correctly pronounce the name of a foreign client can be a positive business advantage.
Studies have shown that children who learn a foreign language develop stronger academic and intellectual skills in other subject areas. For example, one researcher found that students who had taken a foreign language in high school had a significantly higher grade point average in all high school subjects as well as in freshman English courses in college. Even "dead" languages such as Latin seem to have a positive impact. Novelist John Updike attributes the overall decline in the quality of writing over the last few decades to the disappearance of Latin from the general curriculum. As he put it, "In some curious way, the study of this dead and intricate language enabled writers to write a beautiful, clear idiomatic English."
It all depends on your goals. Many people study a foreign language as preparation for travel abroad. Even if you just know a few words like “please”, “thank you” and “hello” the locals will appreciate that you're trying to make the effort. You'll get a warmer reception than if you just grunt and point, or worse, try speaking English louder and louder as if volume improved comprehension. Although “knowing just a few words” is a start, it is not the ideal goal. Baby-talking your way through a foreign culture might be charming at first, but if you need to explain to a local doctor about your allergy to antibiotics, baby talk will only frustrate everyone. If you are going to learn to communicate in a foreign language, your goal is to understand and be understood in almost every likely situation. How much is enough? When you feel that you can talk easily about those things that you would normally discuss with your stateside friends, you've probably got as much as you'll need for most circumstances.
Language scholars have known for a long time that studying a foreign language can give you insights into your own language. Now some middle school and high school English Departments are taking a novel approach. Some schools are now offering "English" credit to students who study a foreign language. While counterintuitive, it turns out that students who study a foreign language learn basic principles of grammar as part of a foreign language far more effectively than when they are taught them directly.
If you want to ace that SAT, study a foreign language for at least two years. Data collected by the Admission Testing Program of the College Board show a definite positive correlation between Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores and the study of foreign languages. For example, in one test group students who had taken no foreign language in high school achieved a mean score of 366 on the verbal portion of the SAT, and 409 on the math portion. Students who had taken only one year of a foreign language had slightly higher scores (378 and 416), whereas students with two years of foreign language showed more dramatic increases (417 and 463). Each additional year of language study brought a further rise in scores, with students who had studied a language for five years or more achieving an average of 504 on the verbal and 535 on the math portion of the exam.
According to a survey conducted in Britian of 270 dating agencies, people who learn or speak a foreign language are also more attractive to the opposite sex. Britons who speak a foreign language were rated more highly because they are easier to match with partners as they are considered to be more intelligent and sexier. The study also found, however, that Britons who know a foreign language tend to earn more money, which also tends to be more attractive to the opposite sex.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|