February 15, 2012
The following guest post was written by Rebekah Stathakis, author of A Good Start: 147 Warm-Up Activities for Spanish Class.
When thinking about February, you may think of Valentine’s Day, Groundhog Day, or Presidents' Day. As a world languages educator, I am excited to be celebrating Discover Languages Month, a time to acknowledge the many, varied benefits of learning languages.
In honor of Discover Languages Month, here is my personal list of ten great benefits of learning another language.
- 1. It is fun! I truly believe that learning another language is and should be fun. It is interesting to learn a new way to share your thoughts, and it is fun to play with words and language. If you watch young children learning to communicate, you see the joy they find in language. World language classes should also be structured in a way that allows students to discover the true joy in expressing themselves.
- You can develop relationships with new people. When I think about the friendships I have formed and the people who have influenced me, I am so thankful that I speak another language. If I didn’t speak Spanish, I wouldn’t be able to interact with and learn from so many of those people.
- Traveling is much easier if you speak another language. The world is filled with fascinating places; if you speak the local language, traveling is not only easier, but you may also find your travel experiences more meaningful.
- You can learn from other people and cultures. When you speak another language, you can immerse yourself in another culture and learn from it. I think Ezra Pound expressed this idea perfectly, saying, "The sum of human wisdom is not contained in any one language, and no single language is capable of expressing all forms and degrees of human comprehension."
- There are cognitive benefits from studying another language. Research strongly supports that there are numerous cognitive benefits from studying language. For example, it helps students’ print awareness, reading ability, ability to hypothesize, memory skills, and problem-solving skills.
- Speaking another language can help you find and secure a job. As we all probably recognize, speaking another language can be an asset in many jobs since it allows you to communicate with more people. If you speak more than one language fluently, you may also be able to find a fulfilling career as a professional translator in a field that you enjoy or find particularly interesting. For example, baseball teams regularly hire team translators (and the translators get to enjoy a lot of baseball).
- You can enjoy movies, literature, and music in their original language. Although translators do wonderful work, to really enjoy the artistry and emotion of a great novel or poem, it is best to read it in the original form. The same is true of movies and music.
- Language study promotes flexibility in thinking. When you study another language, you realize that the same ideas can be expressed in different ways. For example, in Spanish you say "tengo hambre" ("I have hunger") but in English you say "I am hungry." People who speak more than one language tend to be more open to a variety of solutions and are more flexible in how they approach problems.
- Learning another language can help you better understand your first language. As my students learn Spanish, they often discover patterns with English or are able to learn how to use English more effectively. For example, one year a student told me he was able to remember the concept of "impermeable membranes" in his biology class because he remembered "un impermeable" (raincoat) from our clothing unit.
- It is healthy for your brain. Research has shown that studying another language can build gray matter, delay the onset of dementia, and diminish the effects of Alzheimer’s.
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