From improving your job prospects to boosting the size of your brain, language skills could be your ticket to ride. Save the Student lines up the 10 best reasons to get started.
1. It gets you noticed!
A second language gets you bonus points in the UK, where we tend to lag in linguistic skills: around 40% of the population can converse in another tongue. Over on the Continent, more than half speak another language, and 1 in 10 can get by in three! If you’re surrounded by single-language speakers, lingo skills could even push you ahead of the queue for jobs, opportunities and being more interesting than your mates.
2. Languages = extra income
You may not be thinking ahead to a career, but language skills are perfect for earning money in the meantime. There’s plenty of scope for freelancing, from translating books for self-published authors to home working via sites such as Upwork or fivesquid. If you like to talk a lot, you could find gigs in tour guiding or interpreting – and you can even teach the language skills you gain later on.
2. A better shot at employment
This one’s not just about language-specific jobs, such as being a translator – although obviously becoming fluent gives you more options to choose from! It also means you can cast your job search a little wider, with the chance to apply for jobs in other countries, where language skills make it easier to move abroad, integrate and get around.
4. Get more from your travels
Even a few phrases can transform overseas holidays, helping you find your way around, feel at home and stay safe (or ask for help or if you need it). If nothing else, being able to haggle, bargain or be more confident when shopping means you can avoid ‘tourist prices’. It’s also a great way to make new friends, both at home and away!
5. It opens your mind
Learning a language goes hand-in-hand with discovering its culture, too – and that can give you a more positive view of the world (something we need loads more of right now!). Being more sensitive to other cultures is also a top business skill, and can be particularly valuable for anyone involved in dealing with clients, retail or customer service. If you’ve got the skills, make sure they’re on your CV!
6. It boosts your other languages
Discovering how a language works helps you get a handle on the one you already know – especially if you skipped the tricky grammar stuff at school. Once you get into the nuts and bolts of German, Greek or Guarani, subject-verb agreement in your mother tongue starts to make sense, too. Even better, research has shown that learning a second language can make it easier to learn a third or fourth and then, before you know it, you’re this guy.
7. You get a bigger brain
Your brain, just like your biceps or bottom, needs regular workouts if you want to keep it in shape! Learning a language can improve your memory, slow brain ageing, and could even help delay dementia or Alzheimer’s. It’s never too late (or too early) to learn, either: the benefits are just as good if you’re 16 or 60 – but if you’re a current student, you might find the brain boost particularly useful.
8. Future proofing
English is a global language, but it’s not the most commonly spoken (that’s Mandarin). Languages from growing economies are increasingly desirable in the business world, too: Portuguese and Arabic, for instance. At the other end of the spectrum, hundreds of languages are at risk of dying out – even Welsh is now considered ‘endangered’. While learning a disappearing language might sound counter-intuitive, it’s a way of preserving our collective knowledge – plus your skills could prove unique or rather valuable later on!
9. More ways to get your kicks
You’re not likely to ever run short of English-language or translated books, films or games, but a second language gives you even more flavours of fun, sometimes with access to art and literature you might never hear about if they don’t come with subtitles.
10. You find out what makes you tick
Learn a language, and you’ll learn something about yourself. You’ll find out what kind of learner you are, what tools and resources work for you, and even what time of the day you’re most productive – all stuff you can take away and use to hack your productivity elsewhere. There are loads of awesome reasons to load up on language skills but if you’re going to do it right, do it for yourself!