Broadening Your Horizons: 5 Benefits of Learning a Second Language

Map of the world

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Did you know there are about 7,000 languages spoken worldwide? Can you imagine how much time you need to spend on Duolingo to ace all of them? Luckily, you only need to learn one to appreciate just how important foreign languages are. The most obvious advantage of learning another language is the ability to communicate with more people. So, how many benefits of learning a second language are there? This guide tells you everything you need to know. 

What Are the Benefits of Learning a Second Language?

Fluency in Japanese, French, Afrikaans or any other language makes you feel on top of the world. Along the way, you’ll reap these five benefits of learning a second language. 

1. Experiencing New Cultures

Learning a second language means experiencing new cultures. For example, Spanish will educate you about the customs and traditions of Spain, Central America and Latin America. Learning German sets you up for success in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. 

Language classes teach you about food, daily life, literature, art, music and other essential interests of the people. You’ll appreciate and respect the language as you get deeper into learning.  

2. Getting Vacation Ideas

White airplane sits on the runway.

Traveling is one of the most fun parts of life, and language learning sets you up with the perfect excuse for an international vacation. You can bring your skills on the road and test your language knowledge in any country you choose. 

Some languages will have obvious destinations. For example, learning Japanese means traveling to Japan because there’s no other country where it’s widely spoken. However, languages like Modern Standard Arabic, French, English and Spanish are much more common across multiple countries.

When traveling, try to immerse yourself in the culture as much as possible. Elevate your journey by bringing a travel journal and writing what you see in other countries. What customs are different from what you see back home? The best part about your international travel may be the food. You may be on a once-in-a-lifetime trip, so be adventurous and try the unorthodox cuisine! What may seem odd to you could be a delicacy in that country.  

3. Learning Your Own Language

If English is your native tongue, you probably speak it with minimal hesitation. However, sometimes we take our first language for granted. We learn it in grade school and use it in daily conversation, so we don’t have to think too much about it. That concept changes when you know a second language.

Your first foreign language makes you more aware of subject-verb agreement, sentence structure, pronouns, adverbs and other parts of speech. Learning these lessons in another language will improve your understanding of your native tongue. 

4. Expanding Your Career Opportunities

Man walking in Times Square in New York City.

The world has become more interconnected by the year, meaning language learning is more critical than ever. Suddenly, knowing Mandarin, German, Russian and other dialects is in much higher demand because companies need employees who speak multiple languages. This knowledge could be lucrative for your career. 

For example, imagine you work for a tech company wanting to expand its services into other countries. The business wants to open an office in Lisbon, Portugal. Lucky for them, you know Portuguese! They want to let you run the Lisbon office because of your familiarity with the company and fluency in Portuguese. Learning a second language has landed you this incredible opportunity.

5. Treating Disorders

The benefits of learning a second language pertain to your cognitive abilities. However, research has demonstrated foreign language learning has the power to treat some disorders and diseases. For example, high-intensity language learning programs benefit people with schizophrenia. A 2021 study finds these learning regimens effectively treat inpatients with schizophrenia in forensic psychiatric hospitals.

You need your memory as you age, but dementia and other diseases can inhibit you. Thankfully, the benefits of learning a second language extend to fortifying against cognitive decline. A 2019 study of older adults concludes learning a foreign language may be a helpful intervention to promote healthy aging and reduce the risk of degenerative diseases. 

What Languages Are Easiest to Learn for English Speakers?

Your chosen language is critical because native English speakers will learn some easier than others. Ultimately, it comes down to your passion for the dialect, so pick the one you enjoy the most. The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) divides the world’s languages into categories based on how long it takes to learn them. Here are the five categories so you know what you’re getting into. 

Category I

Category I contains the easiest languages to learn. You’ll need about 24 weeks or 600-750 hours to reach professional-level knowledge of these languages:

  • Afrikaans
  • Danish
  • Dutch
  • French
  • Italian
  • Norwegian
  • Portuguese
  • Romanian
  • Spanish
  • Swedish

Category II

A German-English dictionary with a map of southern England.

Category II is more complex but still manageable for the average English speaker. The only language in this section is German, which will take about 30 weeks to learn.

Category III

Category III is when you start to get noticeably different from the English language. There may be some similarities, but the difficulty has increased to 36 weeks of learning. These languages are Indonesian, Swahili and Malaysian. 

Category IV

Are you up for a challenge? Category IV ups the difficulty because most of these languages have little in common with English. Unfortunately, your literature and grammar classes all these years won’t help you. These languages include Greek, Russian, Vietnamese, Mongolian, Hungarian and many others. You’ll need about 44 weeks to achieve professional proficiency. 

Category V

If category IV wasn’t hard enough, take a crack at category V. The FSI says you need 88 weeks to learn Mandarin, Cantonese, Arabic, Japanese and Korean because these languages are exceptionally challenging if you’re a native English speaker. 

Reaping the Benefits of Learning a Second Language

What’s the language you’re learning right now? Do you have one in mind but haven’t started yet? Let this guide be your inspiration for downloading a language-learning app or signing up for a course. The benefits of learning a second language include aiding your health, broadening your horizons, meeting new people and expanding your career opportunities. 

If you consider learning a new language, pick the one you believe you’ll use the most in daily life. In the U.S., Americans will have an easier time learning Spanish due to its proximity to Mexico and the influence of Latin America here. However, you may have friends or a job to help you learn a unique language others don’t know. Regardless, commit to your learning and take time daily for lessons.

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