Learning a language: is it really worth it?

Conversation Flickr k59Many people spend their whole lives dedicating time, effort and money to learning a foreign language. But is it really worth it?

It may all depend on how you are learning. One person who dedicates an hour a day to memorizing verbs may not be enjoying it as much as another who regularly meets in a café to do a language exchange. Language exchanges are great as you get to speak a lot and enjoy a beverage at the same time.  Learning doesn’t have to be a chore. Make it fun!

Use your time carefully. An alternative to going down to the language school after work, when you are tired and only thinking about ripping off those work shoes, is sitting down in front of the television and watching a series in the language you are learning. Choose something that interests you. Don’t choose a romantic comedy series if what you really like is science fiction. TIP: Don’t be afraid to turn on the subtitles, especially if you are a lower level student.

Listen to music. These days you can do it anywhere and anytime. It will broaden your vocabulary and you will learn slang and typical phrases. It will also help you to improve your accent.

Turn your child into your teacher (if you have one, of course!). If they are learning a language have them teach you at home. This reinforces what they have learnt and you benefit too!

Mother Daughter reading Flickr Maria Elena

Turn your long weekend getaway or annual holidays into a language learning opportunity. If time is something that you don’t have a lot of, try converting your next long weekend getaway  or annual holiday into an opportunity to improve. Take that trip to London, Paris, or Lisbon. And if the waiter automatically speaks to you in your language, which can be very frustrating, continue practicing in their language, they will get the point. For more information about studying English abroad go to Go Learn Languages.

But is learning a language worth the monetary cost?
It seems that the data is inconclusive but as Luke Landes wrote in Forbes online magazine there are several good signs that multilingualism has the ability to open opportunities for growing wealth.

  • Speaking more than one language could present more job or career opportunities with the possibility of higher earnings.
  • The act of multilingualism inspires the brain to do better work through improved cognitive ability and to work more efficiently.
  • Scientists claim that bilinguals are better multitaskers. I think the idea of multitasking is mostly a myth, and what we call multitasking is actually quick task-switching, but whatever the cognitive process is called, bilinguals excel.

An article in the New York Times explains that bilingualism can also have benefits for the elderly.

“In a recent study of 44 elderly Spanish-English bilinguals, scientists led by the neuropsychologist Tamar Gollan of the University of California, San Diego, found that individuals with a higher degree of bilingualism — measured through a comparative evaluation of proficiency in each language — were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease: the higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the age of onset.”

I think the positives far outweigh the negatives in relation to learning another language. Getting a better and higher paid job and avoiding dementia are great reasons to be multiligual but there are other reasons that most people forget. Being able to buy a bottle of water when you go on holiday, or surprising a tourist when they ask for directions, etc. But the most important of all: PRIDE. That epiphany when you realise you CAN speak another language. That is special.

4 thoughts on “Learning a language: is it really worth it?”

  1. Thank you, I’ve recently been searching for information about this subject for ages and yours is the greatest I’ve found out till now. But, what about the bottom line? Are you sure about the supply?|

  2. I quickly learned that the French in France was not really anything like the French in Quebec, which is almost…slang?…in comparison…mixed a lot with English words.

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