Many of us have at one time or another fantasized about becoming fluent in a foreign language. At that point, most people take the path toward half-hearted attempts at learning but never really become proficient. Meanwhile, a brave few commit themselves and really make it happen. What makes the folks who choose the latter path undertake the countless hour of study, occasional moments of embarrassment, and the uncertainty of success?
My road to mastery of a foreign language – Japanese – began in college. It was tough going at first, but over the ensuing 15 or so years I attained a high level of proficiency in the language: I have given lectures at Japanese universities, critiqued essays for Japanese college students, and translated books from English into Japanese. And along the way, I have come to believe in the inherent value of learning and mastering a foreign language.
Here are 5 reasons to why you should consider learning a foreign language:
Reason #1: Expands your social network
The act of studying a foreign language can help you bond with fellow travelers along the same path. And, once you become proficient in the language, your social network of potential contacts and acquaintances will increase by the thousands or millions as you become able to communicate with a whole new population of people.
Reason #2: Gives you sense of accomplishment
The sense of accomplishment one feels upon becoming fluent in a foreign language is directly proportional to how difficult it is to learn. Like anything else in life, we gain a feeling of self-confidence and satisfaction when we overcome challenges. Because languages are so multi-dimensional, learning a language means really stretching ourselves mentally and emotionally. There are few better feelings in the world than the first time you have a meaningful exchange with a native speaker of the language you are studying.
Reason #3: Provides new avenues for making money
The world is getting smaller, but not everyone speaks your native language. Learning a foreign language opens you up to a world of opportunities both abroad and at home. Banks, technology companies, consulting firms, international trading firms, and educational institutions around the world are always looking to give well-paying jobs to people who speak a foreign language.
Reason #4: Expands your consciousness
When I am speaking or writing Japanese, I immediately switch into a different mode of awareness. You, too, will find that as you become proficient in the language you are studying, you will not be able to avoid seeing the world a little bit differently: almost like you have two sets of lenses through which to view the same reality.
Reason #5: Makes you more globally aware
As you study a foreign language, you will inevitably be exposed to the culture, history and sociology of the regions or countries with which your language is associated. With ongoing environmental challenges, global trade and regional conflicts, becoming more globally aware may be an essential part of survival in the 21st century.
The reasons why one should learn a foreign language are many. Whether you intend to expand your awareness, achieve a deeper understanding of yourself or just want to increase your value in the marketplace, learning a foreign language may be one of the best investments you can make.