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14 Reasons to Learn a Second Language (or a Third, Fourth or Fifth)

Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. ?

In today’s increasingly interconnected world, speaking a second language is a valuable skill that offers numerous benefits. From enhancing cognitive abilities to opening up new career opportunities and facilitating cultural exchange, learning a new language can enrich your life in many ways. In this article, I’ll take you through 14 compelling reasons to learn a second (or third, or fourth, or fifth+!) language.

And I should know – I’ve learned five additional languages from completely different language families to at least a conversational level, and some of them to fluency. I’m also working on my seventh language at the moment, and have dabbled in learning countless more!

Here’s me working on my Korean, wearing my Tanzanian dress, in the UK!

So what are these fantastic reasons to learn another language? Let’s begin!

1. Boost Your Brain Power

Learning a second language is like a workout for your brain. Numerous studies have shown that bilingual and multilingual individuals have denser grey matter, improved white matter integrity, and enhanced cognitive functions compared to monolinguals.

This means learning a language can improve your memory, concentration, attention span, problem-solving abilities, and even the ability to multitask.

It’s never too late to reap the cognitive benefits of language learning – they apply whether you acquire a second language as a child or later in life.

2. Advance Your Career

In the global job market, proficiency in a second language can give you a competitive edge. Many companies are expanding internationally and seek employees who can communicate with clients and colleagues in other countries.

Industries like customer service, hospitality, international business, and healthcare especially value multilingual candidates. Adding a language to your resume demonstrates valuable skills like cross-cultural communication, open-mindedness and mental flexibility that transfer to any field.

So whether you’re going for a promotion, a pay raise, or a new job, knowing multiple languages for sure can give you a boost!

3. Improve Academic Performance

Learning a second language can have a significant positive impact on students’ overall academic achievement. A meta-analysis of studies found that in 90% of cases, language learners outperformed their monolingual peers in a range of subjects, including math, reading and vocabulary. Amazing, right?

Not to mention that the most commonly used languages in academic research are English, Spanish, French, Japanese, and Chinese. So if you’re doing some research, you might benefit from knowing more than one of these languages!

The cognitive benefits of bilingualism I mentioned above extend into old age. Speaking a second language seems to delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s by an impressive 4-5 years compared to monolinguals. It’s thought that the mental workout of constantly switching between languages builds up cognitive reserve and keeps the brain in better shape.

While not a guarantee against age-related decline, learning a language is a powerful way to keep your mind sharp as you get older.

5. Enrich Your Travel Experiences

Traveling becomes much easier and more fulfilling when you can speak the local language. You’ll be able to navigate transportation, read signs and menus, and avoid miscommunication.

More importantly, you can connect with locals in a meaningful way to learn about their culture, perspectives and way of life. Speaking the language shows respect and interest that opens people up. How? I’ll get to more of that in just a bit!

6. Access a World of Culture

Language and culture are inseparable. To truly master a language, you need to understand the cultural context behind it. In the process, you gain insight into how other societies see the world, their traditions, values, and arts.

At the same time, fluency unlocks a treasure trove of books, music, movies and other cultural products to enjoy in their original language. You may discover a new favorite author or band and develop a deep appreciation for another culture.

7. Access More Information and Entertainment

In relation, when you learn a second language, a whole new world of information and entertainment opens up to you. Suddenly, you can access news articles, websites, podcasts, videos and social media content from countries where that language is spoken.

For example, did you know that one study found that about half of the internet is in English, and the rest is in other languages like Chinese, Spanish, German, Japanese Russian, Persian, French? That’s a lot of content out there to explore!

You can get fresh perspectives on current events, dive deep into a niche interest, or simply stay up to date with what’s trending in pop culture.

8. Improve Your First Language

Learning a second language makes you more aware of linguistic structures and how language works in general. This “metalinguistic awareness” can improve your understanding of your native language’s grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. Figuring out how to express an idea in a new language can even boost your communication skills overall as you learn to speak more precisely.

9. Gain a New Perspective

Each language is a unique lens through which to see the world. The words, expressions and quirks of a language reflect the values and thought patterns of its speakers. As the theory of linguistic relativity proposes, the language we speak shapes our perception and experience of reality.

Learning a second language broadens your perspective and increases open-mindedness as you literally see things differently. It fosters cultural empathy that makes you a better global citizen.

10. Become a Lifelong Learner

Language acquisition trains your brain to analyze structures, find patterns and creatively use limited resources to communicate – important skills that transfer to any subject. Once you’ve learned a second language, picking up a third or fourth becomes easier as your brain knows the drill.

Many polyglots describe language learning as a fun, rewarding hobby they pursue throughout their lives – not a chore! It can be an endless source of intellectual stimulation and personal growth at any age.

11. Connect with More People

Speaking a second language multiplies your opportunities for human connection. You can make friends with fellow learners in a language class. You can have an enriching conversation with a taxi driver or shop clerk in their native tongue while abroad.

I myself have a personal policy of trying to learn the local language whenever I move to a new country (and I’ve done that five times already!). Not only does it help me navigate the new environment and culture better, but it also shows respect to the locals. I talk about this more in my podcast episode, so check it out!

So even if you don’t become totally fluent, you vastly expand the number of people you can deeply connect with and befriend. In some cases, multilingualism within a family or relationship is the key to better communication and closeness.

12. Boost Your Confidence

It takes courage to start speaking a new language, but the risk is so worth the reward. Have you ever heard Amy Chua’s famous quote, “Do you know what a foreign accent is? It’s a sign of bravery.”

Practicing with native speakers builds social skills and assertiveness that can improve confidence in any area of life. Plus, few things match the sense of accomplishment that comes with holding your first conversation in a foreign language.

As your proficiency improves, so will your faith in your ability to take on new challenges and connect with all kinds of people.

13. Build Grit and Discipline

Let’s be real – learning a language is not easy. It takes consistent effort and willingness to make mistakes over a long period of time. Pushing through the inevitable frustrations and plateaus builds grit, the key to success in any endeavor.

Language learning teaches the discipline of sticking with a goal even when progress feels slow. It’s a powerful way to prove to yourself that you can do hard things. The resilience you gain is an invaluable life skill.

14. Have Fun!

Don’t overlook the sheer fun and joy that comes with learning a second language. It’s an infinitely varied hobby full of “aha!” moments when something finally clicks. You get to read, watch and listen purely for pleasure in the language. Making multilingual puns never gets old.

And of course, it enables you to connect with all kinds of interesting people you’d never otherwise meet. While the journey can be challenging, language learning is an immensely rewarding pursuit that can delight you for a lifetime.

Ready to Learn a Second Language?

As we’ve seen, learning a second language offers far more than just being able to order confidently from a menu overseas. It’s an endeavor that benefits the mind, enriches experiences, connects people and brings both personal and professional advantages. In a world that’s more interconnected than ever, multilingualism is increasingly becoming a must-have skill.

At this point, you might not be surprised to know that the benefits don’t stop here. There are even more, which we cover in another article about the benefits of learning a second language!

If you’ve been considering learning a language, there’s no better time to start than now. Choose a language that interests you, whether for its career benefits, cultural attraction, or family heritage. With modern tools and resources, you can start studying online or in person at your own pace. The journey won’t always be easy, but with the right toolkit, it won’t be boring, either. And the rewards are more than worth it.

author headshot

Kelsey Lechner

Translator, teacher, interpreter

Kelsey is a writer, translator, and educator. She is an avid lover of dance, dogs, and tea. LinkedIn | Contently

Speaks: English, Japanese, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Swahili, Bengali

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