Why You Should Learn a Foreign Language

Posted October 17, 2013 by Kelsie Kam in On the Ladder
I started studying Spanish in middle school nine years ago and am still studying it as my second major. Luckily, it came easy to me (probably because I grew up hearing some of my grandmother’s Spanish phrases), but I know the same cannot be said for everyone. Even if you have to work a little harder at it, there are incredible benefits that come from learning and regularly practicing a second language. My grandmother was the primary reason I was interested in Spanish when I chose it amongst all of the offerings in middle school, but the more I studied it, the more I loved it. Some of my favorite books and movies are in Spanish; the number of entertainment options I have continues to grow the more I learn and practice.

Aside from entertainment, here are some reasons why you should consider learning a foreign language:

  • Learn the culture. Whether you want to travel abroad or just want to learn more, learning a foreign language is a great way to familiarize yourself with another culture. A lot of literature is based on historical events, so you’re learning about the history of that culture without even realizing it. If you plan on traveling, knowing more about the culture and language will prevent you from coming off as a naive American.
  • Exercise your brain. It’s the sad truth, but our mental capacity decreasea as you age. Want to prevent that (or at least delay it)? Studying a foreign language will exercise your brain and boost your memory, keeping you on your A-game for as long as possible.
  • Delay Alzheimer disease. If you’re susceptible to Alzheimer’s, keeping your brain active can delay its onset. Physical activity also helps, so why not combine the two and backpack across Europe to practice your new language skills (at least in the countries that speak that language)?
  • Improve your English. As my Spanish vocabulary increases, so does my English vocabulary. There are some words in Spanish that I didn’t previously know in English, so I’m reaping twice as many benefits. I’m also more aware of how structure works in a language since I am constantly comparing the two.
  • Impress people. Whenever people find out I’m studying Spanish, thealways ask me to say anything in Spanish. Your family, friends, and employers will be impressed when they hear about your new skill. It might even open more doors for advancement in your career.

You might think you don’t have time to learn a second language, but I’m almost positive that’s not true. Did you stay up an extra half an hour last night to watch Friends reruns? You could have read some Chinese instead! Did you mindlessly scroll through Twitter/Facebook/Instagram on your phone during your commute this morning? You could have listened to a recording of French vocabulary words to practice! My Spanish classes don’t seem like work anymore since I truly love the language, and the same could happen with you. It might take a few tries to find a language that you really enjoy practicing, but once you do, I guarantee you won’t regret it. ¡Adiós!

About the Author

Kelsie Kam

Kelsie Kam is a rising senior at the University of Notre Dame studying Management Entrepreneurship and Spanish. She is from Kaneohe, Hawaii and although she misses seeing the mountains and the ocean every day, she is looking forward to experiencing all Chicago has to offer. Kelsie loves Zumba, but she will try to run outdoors more often to see the city. She is excited to work with the CGN team and hopefully inspire more women to better themselves both in and out of the workplace.