You’ve probably always thought in the back of your head that it would be nice to learn a foreign language—even if it’s only for asking for directions to the best places to visit when traveling.
However, aside from being a good travel companion, a second or even third language has other benefits that can boost your brain health and even potentially help you earn more money. Here are the top six reasons you should stop delaying those language classes…
1. Gain Cognitive Benefits
According to a 2014 article in The Atlantic magazine, learning another language can unlock your abilities. For instance, the article liked developing language skills to improved mathematics and reading skills—and even to better concentration (the article notes multilingual people tend to score better on tests).
Amazingly, learning another language can help you avoid making typos, which the article referred to as “cognitive traps”. A big point is that adults who learn another language or two can help avoid cognitive decline leading into old age. The Atlantic noted those who spoke more than their mother tongue that develop dementia do so years later compared to those with only one mastered language.
2. Boost Your Confidence
Many people hesitate to take on a new language because they think it may be too hard or they’ll end up embarrassed or failing. But even if you’re making small strides, you’ll be sure to impress yourself (and others) while you get ready to test out your new skills on the road.
You’ll also feel more confident when traveling because you’ll know the basic language skills needed to communicate and find help. Ever had someone ask you a question in broken English that you easily understood? You probably helped that person because they made an effort, even if their English isn’t perfect. The same is likely when it’s you speak another tongue.
3. Maximize your Earning Potential
Many jobs call for bilingual skills, and they usually pay well because fluently bilingual people in the U.S. are relatively uncommon. For instance, Scientific American claims that only 9-percent of adults in America can hold a conversation in two languages.
The school system in the U.S. might be partly to blame, as children don’t always learn a second language in elementary studies (although some schools are including this in their curriculums). Spanish is a popular language in the U.S. and there are many jobs available for those who can speak it as well as English, but there are also opportunities for those learning German, Mandarin, and Arabic.
4. Appreciate Culture
When you learn a new language, for context it helps to learn the culture of the area that you’ll be using the newly acquired verbal skills in. Not only will you be able to learn more about the area, it will open your eyes to new perspectives and things you may not have been aware of had you not spoken the new language.
Not only will you learn the customs, you’ll also be able to appreciate the local art and theatre to enhance your experience—whether you’re traveling or studying abroad. This understanding helps you learn more about yourself and your own cultural influences, some experts point out.
5. Become More Creative
A 2013 Huffington Post blog notes that speaking another language is “an exercise in creativity”. You’ll have to train your mind to put together sentences in another language that is structured differently from your own, meaning you’ll have to think in more abstract ways.
The blog post notes that a study proved learning more languages enhanced planning, cognitive flexibility, and working memory abilities, “three pillars on which creativity is built”. Creativity can be boosted by an increase in cognitive functions according to a study, and we’ve already covered how learning another language can increase cognitive skills.
6. Improve your Multitasking Skills
Those who speak more than one language often switch between them rapidly, especially in a job setting where they’re dealing with a variety of clients. The Daily Mail newspaper in the U.K. backs this up in a 2011 article, claiming that those who speak in different tongues “are constantly exercising their brains”.
The conventional thinking is that it’s easy to accidentally mix languages together while speaking, but the article dispels that by saying polyglots can focus on one language or another and rarely make a mistake. The Daily Mail articles states that this translates to other areas of life, allowing you to juggle more than one task without errors.