"One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way." This beautiful quote by Canadian linguist Frank Smith very elegantly describes one of the many benefits of learning a foreign language in college. If you still need some more convincing, allow us to outline the top 10 advantages of learning a foreign language.
1. Gain a new perspective
One of the most important benefits of learning a foreign language is that it gives you access to a whole new perspective on life. Language in itself is a symbolic system based on the representation of complex ideas within just a few syllables. Words are just sounds - its the idea behind a word that gives it meaning. If you’ve seen Game of Thrones you may recall a scene where Jorah Mormont explains to Queen Daenerys Targaryen that the Dothraki have no word for “thank you.” The concept of thanking someone and showing gratitude for an act is something that does not exist in Dothraki culture. Similarly, there are languages around the world that have words for abstract and complex concepts that English has not yet figured out how to describe, and one of the many advantages of learning a foreign language is the ability to tap into these different concepts to help expand your worldview.
2. Better job prospects
Another very lucrative and important benefit of learning a new language is that it greatly improves your job prospects. Not only does it allow you to pursue jobs in a different country, it also opens up the possibility of career opportunities that would have been unavailable had you been monolingual. Translators, customer service representatives and many jobs within the service industry often require you to know a minimum of two widely spoken languages. If you’re still sitting there wondering why learn a foreign language when I could learn computer science, it may interest you to know that the demand for translators is set to increase by 20% from 2021 till 2031, while in 2023 alone, around 170 tech companies have laid off around 55,000 employees.
3. Make travelling more fun
If you’ve ever heard the “French people are rude cliche” you may see where we’re going with this one. The rose-coloured glasses thorugh which we view foreign holidays are often swiftly shattered when you realise how hard it is to survive without knowing the local language. English doesn’t work everywhere, and it's often more fun to converse with people in their local language than force them to help you in a language they aren’t familiar with. British-Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once said, "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world," so reap the benefits of learning a foreign language and expand the limits of your own world.
4. Increases creativity
American scholar Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that "language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run and out of which they grow," and there is perhaps no better way to describe the link between language and creativity. Language is the base upon which we form our thoughts and ideas, so then it makes logical sense that one of the many benefits of learning a foreign language is the increase in your ability to form new ideas. This allows you to tap into a new vein of creativity, unlocked by the expansion of your base set of thoughts and concepts. If you’re sufficiently convinced, don’t wait any longer. Choose from the list of best language learning app and start now!
5. Ability to Multitask
Do you have trouble concentrating on your assignment when your roommate is on the phone? If you do, you should sign up for a second language class right now, because an increased ability to multitask is just one of the many benefits of learning a foreign language. According to a study by the National Institutes of Health, they found that bilingual people were able to switch between different tasks much better than people who only knew one language. This is attributed to the fact that having to constantly mentally switch between two different languages allows bilingual people to be more adept at splitting their focus between tasks.
6. Enjoy global media
If none of these reasons has convinced you yet and you’re still thinking - why study a foreign language in college when I already have so much on my plate - maybe this next one will have you thinking differently. Our personal favourite of the many benefits of learning a foreign language in college is that it allows access to Movies and TV shows from around the world. You can be one of those pretentious movie watchers that turns their nose up at people who don’t watch shows in their original language. Another advantage of learning a foreign language in college that not many people know, is that most professors incorporate TV show and movie screenings within their syllabus because consuming media content in another language is actually a great way for students to learn. And who doesn’t love a good motivational movie to lift your spirits after a heavy week of classes? If your are out of names, check out this list of best motivational movies.
If you major in a foreign language, many programs also require you to spend a year either working or studying abroad. If you opt for working abroad, you there are many options you can explore including working as an English Assistant for the British Council.
7. Be able to help more people
If you looked at this heading and rolled your eyes, allow us to better convey what we mean with a little help from the wise words of Nelson Mandela, "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart." A huge benefit of learning a foreign language is the ability to put someone at ease and create a safe space for them by speaking to them in their own language. So if you don’t know what language to learn, maybe try and learn your peers’ native languages so they can feel more at home. If you’re having trouble sharing your space, a great tip for living with roommates is to attempt to learn each other’s native languages so you can understand each other better.
8. Improve your memory
Forgot where you left your keys? Time to learn Spanish! A scientifically proven health benefit of learning a second language is increased memory retention. In an article published in the Journal of Cognitive Psychology by Schroeder et al. their research showed that bilingual adults had a better episodic memory (type of long-term memory) than monolingual adults. Research also confirms that even if you have learned a second language halfway through college as opposed to having grown up speaking two languages your whole life, the memory retention benefits of learning a foreign language will be notable.
9. Better grasp of all languages
"He who knows no foreign languages knows nothing of his own." These words by German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe are not to be taken literally, of course. All he means to say is that one of the benefits of learning a foreign language is the increased ability to understand the nuances of your native tongue. Once you have a good grasp over the ins and outs of two semantically different languages, it makes picking up new languages much easier. In fact, some people can even become fluent in a completely foreign language in just a month of learning.
10. Say goodbye to indecisiveness
If you’re always the last one to order at a restaurant and always have buyer’s remorse even after visiting five different stores, you should try learning a new language. Yes, that’s right - a huge benefit of learning a foreign language is the ability to make better decisions. According to an article published in the Association for Psychological Science titled “Using a Foreign Language Helps Decision-Making”, studies have shown that thinking through a decision in your non-native langue allows you to better assess your risks and take a more informed decision using analytical and critical thinking.
So there you have it - the top 10 benefits of learning a foreign language at university! If you’re native language isn’t English and you’re looking for ways to improve, there are a number of helpful English learning apps that you can use. If we’ve convinced you to learn a new language, but your college doesn’t offer the subject you want, you can always use UK university search to help you find the best fit for you using their university search tool.