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Why You Should Learn a Second (or Third) Language

Across the globe, there are around 7,000 languages being used by the 7.7 billion people on it. Of these languages, several see widespread use by large proportions of the population, with Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi, and Arabic being five of the most numerous. But did you know that around half of the human population are also bilingual? When someone is bilingual, they are able to communicate in two different languages, and this can happen due to the presence of multiple languages being used in a shared space, language policies in a country that fosters speaking two or more languages, and by the movement of people across regions for business, social, and economic opportunities.

For many people, being bilingual is a choice; their native language may be common enough that they need only that language, or they learn a second language because they are interested in the culture where the language is most common. But for many others, being bilingual at minimum is a necessity for the everyday rigors of life, and as our economy continues to become more global, bilingualism will become more important for everyone as we interact with more people who speak other languages. With that in mind, here are some of the major reasons why you should consider learning a new language.

Travel Becomes Much Easier

It’s an obvious advantage to be able to speak and read the language of a place that you’re visiting. While it’s true that English is becoming increasingly common around the world, especially in the business world, many places don’t use English as their primary or even secondary language. Being able to communicate with local populations in a place that you visit is a good way to learn what to do when you’re visiting that place, such as what food is good or where to find certain locations, and being able to read the language will help when you’re exploring so that you can find out where you’re going.

You’re More Likely to be Hired

As our economies are becoming increasingly global, businesses need people who can interact both with their headquarters and with the people they do business with. Certain careers also benefit from being bilingual, such as teaching English as a second language or being an international diplomat. A great advantage to being at least bilingual in the business setting is that it makes networking easier by allowing better comprehension of other people’s opinions and actions, and you’ll be able to see the world from different viewpoints.

It will Sharpen your Mind

Because learning a new language involves learning that language’s system of rules, structures, and lexicon, it develops learning skills such as cognitive thinking and problem solving, which will help you out both personally and professionally. It will also improve your memory and ability to observe your surroundings. In fact, people who learn another language are more likely to keep their mental faculties as they age, with some studies saying that people who speak two or more languages won’t start showing signs of dementia for several more years compared to people who only speak one language. It also becomes easier to learn other languages if you want to go beyond being bilingual.

So what language should you learn? Spanish is a valuable language to learn since it is the second most spoken in the United States, and is widely used in Mexico, Central, and South America. French is also a useful language to learn if you live in the north-eastern states, which are located near French-speaking Quebec, and is the second-most recognized de facto language in the world. These two languages, and Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, and Russian, are five of the six official languages of the United Nations, with English being the sixth, making any of them a great language to learn if you’re interested in international diplomacy. You might also consider learning a language used by a community in your area or one you might encounter during a study-abroad opportunity. You aren’t limited to spoken languages either: American Sign Language is used by between 250,000 and 500,000 people in the U.S. and parts of Canada, and will let you communicate with people associated with the deaf community in North America. Whichever language you choose, you’ll be giving yourself a huge advantage as you move forward in life.