Why Learning a Second Language is So Important

Because English is a very popular language, American students tend to forget that other languages may be useful in their present and future life. People from Latin America, Asia, and Europe learn English as their second language at a very early age and start studying it once they get into primary school. Learning a second language is beneficial for multiple reasons:

  • Increases the number of people you can communicate with
  • Increases your job opportunities and salary 
  • Provides opportunity to work and move abroad
  • Improves cognitive function
  • Improves your confidence and makes traveling easier
  • Introduces you to new cultures
  • Improves memory 
  • Helps you excel in academics
  • Increases level of creativity 
  • Promotes global awareness
  • Allows you to socialize better in other countries
  • Expands your personal and professional network
  • Improves decision-making skills
  • Increases English vocabulary skills
  • Helps people contribute to a global economy

Studies show that a large amount out of the 335 million people who have English as their main language never even consider learning another one. They don’t find a need to because most people they meet, even foreigners, can speak English. Even though it is true, English isn’t the most commonly spoken language in the world. Mandarin Chinese is, followed by Spanish and then English. But still, people from all over the world take the time to learn English. Why don’t those who speak English try to do the same?

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High School and College Language Learning

Most high schools offer several years of a foreign language – typically Spanish, French, German, and Mandarin Chinese. Sometimes these classes are mandatory and other times they are electives, but students should take advantage of these courses. The benefits of learning a second language outweigh the costs. 

Additionally, many colleges require a certain number of years of a foreign language before you can be admitted. Students will already need the language courses so learning a second language in high school and middle school will help with this. If you lack that, you must take several courses once you attend that college. At a college or university, more languages will be offered but they can be more difficult to learn when you’re older. Learning a second language while you’re younger allows students to practice more often and work on their accents. 

When it comes to learning a second language, the earlier you start the better off you’ll be. Studies have shown that the younger a child learns a language, the better they will both understand and be able to speak it. In case your elementary school didn’t offer First Grade Spanish, high school is a great place to start as well. Overall, the best way to learn a second language is to start as early as possible. 

Your brain also improves a lot once you start learning another language. Psychologists from York University discovered that students who learn a foreign language get higher scores in their courses and tests, specifically in math and vocabulary. Learning a second language influences the gray matter of the brain, the part that processes information. Thus, the student absorbs information faster. This is yet another benefit of learning a second language. 

Worldwide Communication

By learning a second language, you open a huge window of opportunity. If you learn Spanish, you’ll be able to talk to the 414 million people in the world who also speak that language. If you learn Portuguese, you can talk to 203 million speakers. It doesn’t really matter what you choose; the number of people you can communicate with grows. Communication is a huge reason why learning a second language should be on every student’s to-do list. 

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Job Opportunities

Communicating with more people is the biggest reward you’ll get from speaking two or more languages. Learning another language will also increase your job opportunities. You’ll be able to find a job by only speaking English, but if your resume says you can also speak French or Italian, it is more likely you’ll get the job. Big companies tend to have business relationships with international companies, so they need bilingual employees. In order to communicate with those international partners, companies hire workers who can speak fluently in a second language. Getting a high-paying job is a major benefit of learning a second language. 

Best Ways to Learn a Second Language

If you’re already out of high school, then learning a second language will be a different journey for you. The best way to learn a second language outside of school is by watching shows in the new language, downloading educational apps, and hiring a tutor. When you combine all these resources, you’ll be able to learn and master a second language in a shorter amount of time. 

Use streaming services to narrow down shows and movies available in your desired second language and watch them with English subtitles on. Many multilingual people have said that watching shows is one of the best ways to learn a second language. You’ll hear it in a conversation and at the real speed it is spoken. 

Downloading educational apps is a popular way to learn a second language. There are free apps, like Duolingo, and some that you have to pay for. These apps allow you to learn at your own pace and on your own time. Many of them are broken up by region so you can learn Brazilian Portuguese or Portugal Portuguese. Local languages and dialects are important to consider when learning a second language. 

Hiring a tutor or spending time with someone else who speaks fluently in another language gives you more confidence in your conversation. Speaking conversationally in another language can be difficult so having at least one person to talk to will help you improve your skills immensely. 

The Many Benefits of a Second Language

Learning a second language is the best decision you’ll ever make.

The amazing thing is that you can learn any language and you’ll still get these rewards. Pick one or two you want to start learning and you’ll be on your way to reaping the benefits of learning another language. English speakers can enhance all areas of their lives when they learn a second language and learn about different cultures. Research shows that bilingual people have a profound understanding about culture and language that helps them in their careers and personal lives. 

Did you know there are scholarships out there specifically for people interested in foreign languages? Check them out here.

8 thoughts on “Why Learning a Second Language is So Important”

  1. Lexi Jorgenson says:

    When was this published?

    1. Allison Wignall says:

      Hi Lexi, this piece was published on 7/21/16.

  2. T. Venable says:

    My daughter who is a sophmore took 2 years of Spanish in Middle school. She took Spanish 3-4 as a Freshman. She didn’t take a Spanish class as a sophmore but now finds out she will most likely need 2 years of Spanish to get into a University . She wants to take Spanish either in Junior or Senior year but take Spanish 1-2 since she was never credited the spanish classes in middle school. Our district we are told does not give credit for middle school Spanish. She is told that she cannot take another Spanish class because it has to be taken consecutively…is this true? How does she make up for the 2nd year of spanish required for a university then?

    1. Allison Wignall says:

      Hello! Credit is not often given for middle school foreign language, but every district and college is different, and so qualifies credit differently. In terms of second year language requirements, get in touch with the school directly and ask the admissions team what can be done. Likely your daughter might have to take some foreign language courses in the college of her choice to make up for it. But as I said, every college is different, and so it’s important to reach out to them to get more specific information.

  3. Genevieve R Leibrecht says:

    who published this article

    1. Allison Wignall says:

      Hi, Genevieve! This article was written by our former guest-blogger Maria Andreina Fernandez.

  4. BJ says:

    What if you’ve missed the high school window and still want to learn Spanish. I’ve often read how many ESL learners are taught English for free, as adults. I’ve never seen that offered to English speakers. Do such places exist after high school (besides college paid courses)? If not, why is English only taught for free, but not Spanish? Your thoughts?

  5. Marcus says:

    I agree with you in that it is always important to make sure you start learning a foreign language as soon as you can. It makes sense to think that doing this can help you get the new language ingrained in your mind and have it easier later on. A friend of mine was talking about how he needed to get his mom to take ESL classes, so I’m glad I found your page.

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