So you’re a muggle…
I gabbed about learning another language for years, but for some reason never really found the time or built up the motivation to sit down and really get to work.
Maybe I didn’t really know how. I thought I had no time. I had taken some classes in high school and quickly became disillusioned with the inefficient rote memorization. I didn’t even do especially poorly, and left them speaking a little bit of a new language that I then went on to not use for several years.
These days I write about languages a lot, I actively study a few at a time and I’m constantly trying to convince others to take up the cause and get out there and learn.I was monolingual for most of my life – up until quite recently actually. I don’t consider myself to be monolingual anymore, but nor do I consider myself bilingual or multilingual. I exist in a weird state of limbo – possessed of a working proficiency in two languages and beginner skills with a couple others – it’s a strange place to be.
Another language blogger whose post I read a couple of years ago, and whose name I cannot for the life of me remember, referred to herself as “monolingual with benefits”. I liked it a lot and have been applying it to myself ever since. So when I say I’ve been there I really do mean it.
You may think that learning a language is beyond you.
Lets just set this crazy notion aside for a while. By a while I mean forever. It’s not beyond you, it never was and it never will be and anyone who says otherwise is misinformed or confused. Your age is irrelevant, time can be managed more efficiently and you really don’t have to travel in order to succeed. You can do pretty much everything you need to learn a language from the comfort of your own home – including speaking it. So lets work on motivation:
The Earth is becoming a smaller place every year and the need for multilinguals has never been higher than it is today, despite what some naysayers seem to think.
Nearly everyone can benefit from learning a language or two (or three) and it remains the primary mission of Languages Around the Globe to help make doing so more enjoyable, more successful and less expensive. Most people realize that the benefits of language learning exist, but are perhaps unaware of just how vital and transforming acquiring such skills can be…
It is no secret that the ability to speak or read another language can give you an edge these days when it comes to finding employment. In a steadily globalizing world the need for multilingual employees in virtually all fields is increasingly vital to the infrastructure of most modernized and developing countries.
As investors look overseas for up and coming economies such as those of Brazil and Indonesia, the skills that multilinguals bring to the table become increasingly valued. Some have suggested in the past that bilingual employees are in fact paid more for their skills than monolingual employees, but hard, repeatable evidence that employees performing the same work make different amounts is difficult to come by.
Bilingualism is however, going to make a candidate more competitive in the job market, often leading to a better job than might have been offered to a monolingual. Check out this article from Forbes regarding bilingualism and income.
2) Mental Health:
Studies are showing that learning new languages can actually benefit your health. These studies indicate that the multilingual, and those pursuing such mentally taxing tasks as language acquisition have a reduced risk of various forms of mental degradation such as Alzheimers disease and two other forms of dementia including frontotemporal and vascular dementia.
University of Edinburgh’s scholar Thomas Bak mentioned the following in regards to the study.
“Findings suggest that bilingualism might have a stronger influence on dementia than any currently available drugs.”
3) Increased IQ
Some evidence suggests that actively learning languages has been shown to increase ones’ overall intelligence and could be linked to improving IQ scores in adults as well as children. Multilinguals seem to exhibit a significant increase in cognitive function.
They are able to switch between multiple tasks more decisively and at a more rapid rate than their monolingual counterparts. Other studies have also shown that making decisions in a 2nd language can often lead to better choices. By providing us with a different angle from which to approach our problems, sometimes the answers we seek become more evident.
4) Become a better global citizen.
Language learning fosters multicultural awareness and understanding across borders, religions and politics. It is said that a language is a window into a culture, and offers the learner a new way of viewing the world.
There is evidence that seems to indicate that bilingual individuals tend to be more open, accepting and tolerant of other people than some their monolingual counterparts. One of the largest causes of warfare and social upheaval is the inability to communicate properly on a cultural level. To relate to one another and attempt to see the world from the perspective of those who disagree with us.
The superficial differences that we impose upon ourselves and one another are only reinforced by a general lack of mutual understanding, so in order to fix the problem we must be able to engage one another more openly.
5) It’s a lot more fun than you think.
I find that starting a new project is the hardest part. It’s can be such an overwhelming process, it’s hard to tell where to begin and what to work on first, and everyone tells you something different. But if you can get past these initial hurdles and start recognizing the progress you’re making it suddenly becomes a ton of fun!
Your new language will expose you to new cultures, ideas, worldviews and other phenomena that may otherwise escape your interest or notice. It broadens horizons and offers adventure and intrigue. You will come across opportunities to build relationships with those you thought you could never before communicate with.
6) It’s Sexy.
Is it still considered a matter of opinion if everyone agrees that it’s true? What more do I need to say – being multilingual makes you more attractive. Don’t believe me? This infographic gets used on more language blogs than you can shake a stick at. And maybe we language enthusiasts are just trying to toot our own horns, but come on, does anyone really think that being monolingual is better?
7) Foreign film is great and foreign music rocks! (Sometimes anyway).
One of the most common reasons that people state for wanting to learn a foreign language is so that they can understand the lyrics of some band they heard. People are increasingly interested in music they can’t understand. Everything from Rammstein to K-Pop to Afrobeat.
People love experiencing new music, and many just aren’t satisfied if they can’t understand the lyrics – and who can blame them?
But the fun doesn’t stop there. Cinema doesn’t stop at the California border. From French film to Bollywood the world has plenty of examples of fantastic movies and television that are not only entertaining but just like foreign music; are fantastic way to learn. Minimal effort required.
It’s not all about music and film though. Walk into a bookstore or a library some time and take a look around at the literature you see. Imagine this vast amount of knowledge; of stories, news articles, poetry and research. Think about the lifetimes it would take to consume that much knowledge and how valuable this information must be.
This stuff exists in other languages too – often untranslated and unknown to those of us who cannot read it. The German language in particular can claim an enormous quantity of the world’s untranslated literature. If you could read German, or any other language, think of what you could unlock even with a relatively basic understanding.
Hope is not lost for you.
The list of good reasons to learn a language that should get you excited enough to get up off your ass and go learn goes on and on, but these are, in my opinion, some of the most relevant and inspiring.
Mental health and cognitive function seem like reason enough to start that project you’ve always been talking about, and the plethora of other benefits that can be reaped from language study guarantees that you won’t be wasting your time.
So seriously, stop procrastinating and complaining about money and time. Unlike wizards, polyglots
are not born speaking several languages, and many – if not most – didn’t get started as young children.
You don’t have to stay a muggle forever.
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