So, You Want to Learn a Language?

So many languages to choose from!

Speaking another language has long been a skill that impresses and fascinates people – and scares them completely. Learning another language requires discipline, commitment and patience. So, as busy college girls with too many things to do and not enough hours in the day to do them, why exactly should we choose to study a foreign language?

It will help you get a job.
Start any language degree, and the first thing you will be told is that studying a foreign language will help you get a job. Journalists are often expected to have another language under their belt, as is anyone who wants to work in foreign affairs or business. It also opens up a greater scope of places to find work – if you know French or German or Japanese, what is to stop you from finding a job there? If you’re looking for a language with wide appeal, consider Chinese Mandarin, Spanish, or Arabic – these three languages are considered the most widely spoken languages in the world.

Destination: Anywhere!
Many people want to learn another language for one simple reason: it allows you to travel! If you do your research properly, you can find a language that is common throughout a greater part of the world. 

“So many people study French! So many people!” The fact that French is widely spoken was a definite motivation for Law student, Phoebe, to pick up the language. It also influenced Journalism student Georgia’s decision: “I would be able to converse throughout western Europe, northern Africa, French Polynesia, and in some parts of the old Indochina. Plus French sounds amazing.” 

There are some things which only sound right in the native language they are spoken. Plus, those living in the country appreciate your efforts to learn their language – although sometimes you’ll find that they speak English a lot better than you can.

Cultural insight.
When you study a language, you aren’t just studying the mechanics of it, like the conjugation of verbs, the different tenses, and constantly brushing up on your vocabulary. Many language courses also include dedicated sections to learning about the history and culture of the country, where the language originated, or the countries where it is spoken. You can look at the political history, the different regions of the country, the different dialects spoken, the food, the movies, the music. Caitlin, a French student, believes that “one of the best things about learning another language is learning the culture, and also learning about your own (culture) through comparisons.” Learning about the way another culture operates gets you thinking about your own, and how it works and intertwines. Languages are definitely a good way to get you thinking!

It’s a mental work out!
Aside from being able to impress your friends with your language skills, and giving you the opportunity to work or study overseas, an overlooked benefit of studying a language are the study skills you learn! Yes, I bet you didn’t see that coming!

“It works my brain in a way that no other class does. I leave my French classes feeling as if I have done a work out!” says Georgia, while Phoebe sees merit in the skills you pick up while studying: “The skills you practice when studying a language…can be transferred to studying other things and in other aspects of your life.”

The skills she refers to are the constant revision of new vocabulary and grammar points, so you can program them into your memory. Learning a language can teach you a different way to discipline your mind, and lead you to many great study habits that you can apply to other subjects. Once you know the tricks, it is easy to find other areas to apply them to! Phoebe adds “I learned (more) about the grammar of English when I studied French, than what I ever did when studying English!”

A word of caution.
There is no doubt that languages are a lot of fun to learn. However, it is not all fun foreign film nights and trying local cuisine. If you decide to learn a language, you need to look at your main goals: do you want to delve into the nitty-gritty of the language, and study literature and poetry in that foreign language, or are you looking at a more practical course, with a focus on conversation? The one downside to learning a language is its time consuming nature – you have to have the time to practice and consolidate your learning. Don’t forget to look at the content of your language course before you sign up, so you know what you are getting yourself into!

At the end of the day, learning another language is a great way to broaden your horizons, impress your friends and family, and view the world from another point of view. Languages have a special way of drawing you in and making you fall in love, with both the language and the countries it is spoken in.

So, next time you have a free elective in your timetable, why not give a language a whirl?


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