What Are the Benefits of Learning a Second Language?
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What Are the Benefits of Learning a Second Language?

Melanie Smith
Melanie Smith

Table of Contents

There are many benefits of learning a second language, and some may come as a surprise! We round up some of the key advantages below, along with the best ways to learn a new language fast, including a look at whether it’s possible to learn a language by watching TV!

Cognitive Benefits of Learning a Second Language

One of the perks of learning a new language is that it boosts mental function in a number of ways.

Firstly, it can help with decision making; research has shown that one of the benefits of learning another language is that it promotes analytical reaction and decision making. Studies have shown that bilingual people tend to have a more rational approach when faced with a potentially challenging emotional situation, and make better decisions as a result.

A language study group of three individuals reading language text books
Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

Improved concentration is cited as a key benefit of learning a second language: the ability to adapt and focus in order to facilitate switching between different languages is credited as the reason behind this.

Learning a new language also helps improve memory and the ability to multitask and problem solve. By effectively training your brain, you’re working it out and, like any muscle, it will get stronger. Research has suggested that the act of learning a second language, in the development of the new neural connections it promotes, can even guard against dementia.

Economic Benefits of Learning a Second Language

As well as boosting your brain power, learning another language could boost your bank balance, too!

Being bilingual opens up more employment opportunities: having a specific second language is a prerequisite for some jobs and bilingualism in general is seen as a major plus point for candidates in many careers - employees who speak a second language tend to have a higher average annual wage, too.

A second language opens up the potential to work for an international company, or to work overseas.

As the world we live in becomes increasingly globalized, the benefits of learning a second language are clear: those who are bilingual are likely to have better opportunities in terms of job prospects, and to be regarded as valuable, indispensable employees, which is important in regards to job security.

Benefits of Learning a Second Language for Travel

Learning a new language can make for both an easier and more enriching travel experience. Knowing the language of the country you’re visiting or have come to live in means that your day-to-day life will run markedly smoother - and be more enjoyable, too: you will be able to read signs and timetables to help you navigate the city, you can ask for (and understand) directions, and are able to order food in restaurants with confidence - and stand a chance of getting what you actually wanted!

A photograph of a coffee shop in Santa Cruz, Sevilla, Spain
Photo by Johan Mouchet on Unsplash

Proficiency in the native language also enables you to make friends, or to network, which can take your stay to another level and open up new opportunities for your trip. Experiencing the culture of the country you’re in is vastly enhanced when you can speak its language.

Being able to speak a second language also offers money saving benefits when it comes to travel, as you are in a position to more fully understand the customs, cultures and unique personality of the city or town in which you’re staying: if you can chat to the locals, you can find out the best place to stay in terms of value for money and quality.

If you can speak the language confidently, you may feel in a position to haggle with a seller to save some dollars here and there, or to ask for a discount on a rental charge.

What Are Some Health Benefits of Learning a Second Language?

As mentioned above, learning a second language can actually offer protection against the onset of dementia, with studies suggesting that the onset of this disease, where present, was, on average, experienced five years later in those who were bilingual. The reason for this is understood to be the fact that learning a new language increases neural networks in the brain - this provides more pathways for information to be processed, which mitigates the effects of dementia for a significant period of time.

Surprisingly, learning another language can also improve both sight and hearing function. This is thought to be due to the way in which the senses have to become more adaptive and finely honed to distinguish more than one language.

An increase in general self-confidence is often cited as an important benefit of becoming bilingual. Summoning up the courage to have that first conversation or ask a question in a new language, perhaps while on holiday, is a significant moment for many people, and can become emblematic of what they are capable of achieving and the challenges they can overcome. With practice, using the second language becomes easier, even natural, as the speaker’s confidence grows.

The ability to think creatively is also promoted when you learn a new language - this is partly due to not necessarily knowing all the exact words needed in the second language, and so having to think on your feet to solve the problem. For example, you may need to come up with some creative ways to describe something if you don’t know the key word you need.

And last but not least, learning a second language improves concentration, focus and attention span.

Which Foreign Language is in Demand?

You may be considering whether to learn Spanish or to learn French, and trying to weigh up which one to choose. In terms of demand, Spanish is one of the most in demand languages when it comes to employment opportunities, and is the most requested language in terms of employing translators.

A major factor of this is the predominance of Spanish speaking countries - there are more of these in the world than any other language; there are 21 countries where Spanish is the official language, and it is spoken as the native language of over 400 million people. Therefore, for international employers, having a Spanish speaking member of staff is a significant advantage.

Also, in terms of geography, the United States borders the biggest Spanish speaking country in the world, and so the need for communication in Spanish is important on many levels for those living in this country.

The increasing presence of Spanish companies in the USA and across Europe further adds to the in demand nature of the Spanish language - businesses are becoming more and more likely to need to be able to speak and network with industry partners and clients.

A Redbull sign in Spanish saying "Closed, and for us would always be open"
Photo by A.R.T.Paola on Unsplash

In terms of deciding which new language to choose, many prospective learners ask ‘is Spanish easier than French?’ The majority of people find Spanish an easier language to learn due to its highly phonetic nature - words consistently correlate to set sounds, unlike in many other languages.

Pronunciation, also, is often cited as being easier in Spanish than in French - and once learners get to grips with the pronunciation rules in Spanish they are remarkably consistent.

Spanish has far fewer irregular verbs than French, and its grammatical structure is easier to get a handle on.

Finally, the numbering system of the Spanish language is usually easier for students to learn, too.

Best Ways to Learn a New Language Fast

In general, the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it. In addition to classroom, online or self-taught learning, spending time in the country where the language you’re learning is spoken can be invaluable in achieving fluency, fast.

However, spending lots of time visiting or even living in another country isn’t practical for a significant number of people - but there are plenty of other ways to achieve an immersive experience - without leaving home.

You could try changing your phone settings to the new language, or speaking regularly with a fellow learner entirely in the language being learnt. Try enjoying listening to music or reading books in the new language, or re-labeling the tins and containers of food in your kitchen.

These simple ways are extremely effective at helping you to incorporate the language, and its use, into your daily life.

A highly enjoyable and effective way to learn a new language fast is by watching tailored subtitled programs and movies on TV.

If you’re wondering, ‘how long does it take to learn Spanish?’ then an engaging, immersive experience like this can significantly speed things up, with those using TV to help them learn, reporting swift increases in language proficiency and confidence.  

Learning a language by watching subtitled tv also allows viewers to pick up ‘real world’ phraseology and vocabulary, and practice listening to the new language as it is spoken in day-to-day scenarios.

Learning a new language can be a great way to boost your brain power, your employment opportunities and even your health and wellbeing. With new, innovative ways to learn now readily available, such as through watching specialized subtitled TV programs, there is sure to be an option to get you speaking a second language fast while having fun along the way!