Six reasons to learn another language

By Clark Brooks

There are several reasons for learning a second, third or even fourth language. In Europe, with smaller nations and nearly unrestricted travel between them, it is not uncommon for residents to pick up another language or two and be able to communicate effectively. Nearly every country in Europe requires students as young as six to learn a foreign language, usually English, according to The Pew Research Center.

Generally speaking, most high schools in the America offer foreign language classes, but only 15% of our country's elementary schools do the same. Except as a college requirement, there is not national US mandate like in Europe to acquire second language ability.

Sadly, less than one percent of American adults who studied a foreign language are remotely capable of carrying a conversation in that language. It isn't because Americans are dumber - although some might dispute that after the last two presidential election cycles - or less capable, but because the educational system's approach is fundamentally flawed, which is a topic for another time.

I gutted out three years of Spanish in high school and now some 40 years later, I am admittedly not in that one-percent club. I can order a beer in Español and ask where is the nearest bathroom, mostly in that order because that's just how life works. I have always held mad respect for anyone who can speak two or more languages fluently.

While caring for a relative who was suffering Alzheimer's and assessing my own risk in the next 20 or so years, I learned research has shown that people who are bi-or multilingual experience a delay in the onset of symptoms from dementia by 4-5 years when compared with monolingual patients. Why didn't they know that information back when I was struggling in Señor Kruzan's junior-year Spanish class?

Despite incredible resistance to the endeavor and the insistence everyone within our borders speak American, there are dozens of reasons to learn to speak one or more languages. Regardless of whether you want to slow the degeneration of your cognitive ability or want to increase your upward career mobility, here are six practical reasons to learn a new language that make absolute sense.

1. Learning another language stalls the onset of Alzheimer’s & dementia.
While there is no absolute guarantee, multiple studies suggest that degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia advance at a much slower pace than those how are multilingual. In one published study researchers found a small but significant protection for people who speak more than two languages. However, no significant benefit was seen in those who were bilingual.

2. Learning another language opens opportunities in high paying careers
If you can speak and read in one or more languages in addition to English, there are endless exciting opportunities in government service sector, law enforcement and the military. A woman I know has the perfect pandemic job. She charges $40 an hour tutoring high school and college students in Spanish.

3. Speaking a second or third language comes handy when you want to have a discreet conversation
You are having a great time at Barraca, a dance club in Valencia, Spain, when you meet the next Mr. or Mrs Right - or at least Right Now - and you need to fly solo. No better way to tell them to drop back or peel off than in another language. Oh, and there is no better way to share your displeasure on your boss' latest silly workplace edict with co-workers know or studying the same language.

Friend 4. Make new friends from around the world
Learning to communicate in other languages opens the door to meeting interesting people from other parts of the world and forging future personal and business relationships. Best of all when you visiting their city or country, you'll get the inside scoop on where to go and what to do off the well-worn tourist paths for a unique, memorable trip.

5. Improve your memory & cognitive performance
Studies have shown bilingual people have better working memories, superior speed when switching between different tasks and have an easier time learning new things. Like doing bicep curls to build strength, learning a new language strengthens brain functions.

6. Learning a new language is fun
Learning to speak another language is fun, just not so much in a high school and college setting. Unfortunately, both the methodology and process used by the educational system in the US is whacked. What's fun about speaking another language? It's anything from ordering food in that language to the look on the faces of native speakers when they realize you speak their language pretty well. It's moments watching movies and TV shows when you realize you don't need subtitles.

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