4 benefits to learning a new language

Studying Japanese has helped me make online pen pals through apps like HelloTalk, and I’ve been able to connect to a rich culture that is so unlike my own. Studying Spanish has helped me connect to my own culture as I was raised by my Venezuelan mother. It’s also opened new opportunities for me as I am now living and working in Florida.   As you can see, my life has transformed for the better as I study and immerse myself into other languages. My self-efficacy has increased. I feel happier and healthier. Here are my top 4 reasons on why you should learn a new language:  

1. Connection 

The first reason why you should learn a new language is to make new connections with other people. An amazing part of the human experience is our ability to connect to one another. Learning a new language allows you to connect with people from other cultures who have unique perspectives and experiences that can make you reflect on your own. Fulfilling the desire for social interaction and belonging is a crucial part of maintaining your wellbeing.   

For me, studying Spanish has helped me connect better with my community. I live in South Florida and my city is known for its large population of Venezuelans. I work at a coffee shop and studying Spanish helps me communicate with both English and Spanish speaking customers. I do not want anyone to feel left out due to their mother tongue and in turn I do not feel left out either. I get to take pride in being someone who works on bridging language barriers in my community.  

2. Boost your Career 

As the years go by, the demand for employees that speak multiple languages continues to rise. In 2015 there were about 630,000 online job postings in the US looking for bilingual employees. Many of those job postings are for prestigious jobs like bank managers and doctors. A good portion of job postings in the US look for people who can speak Chinese, Spanish, or Arabic as those languages are the mother tongues of many immigrants to America. As an example, between 2010 and 2015, the number of jobs requiring prospective employees to be bilingual in English and Chinese increased by 230%.   

3. Brain workout 

Learning a new language has been proven to be an excellent brain workout. Students studying foreign languages in grade school have higher standardized test scores and reading achievement. They have higher overall academic performance than their peers who are not taking a foreign language class. Throughout all age groups, those who take the time to study a new language have improved memory function, problem solving skills, and verbal abilities.   

I have noticed improved memory function as I study Japanese and Spanish. In turn it improves my feelings of self-efficacy, which describe the beliefs you hold about your ability to complete tasks. As someone who has chronic depression, improving my self-efficacy helps me manage my symptoms. I feel more capable and ready to face problems that come my way.  

4. Cultivate Joy 

Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California is a professor who researches happiness. She coined the term “hedonic adaptation”, which is a process in which people’s feelings return to a stable baseline after experiencing a positive or negative event. Hedonic adaptation is why so many people feel incredibly happy after shopping but then become dissatisfied with their purchases after some time.   One way to combat hedonic adaptation is to new learn new skills. Learning new skills helps you cultivate unconditional joy rather than conditional happiness. It helps you appreciate your talents and passions rather than focus on material goods.  

One new skill you can learn is a new language. Learning a new language can be free due to endless resources on the internet. For example, Japanese learners can check out websites like Tofugu and Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese. There is also an abundance of resources at local libraries. Most libraries have a dedicated section for language learning materials.  

If you decide to take formal classes, it is an excellent opportunity to make new friends and build lasting connections with people who have similar interests. Community colleges and community centers are excellent places to check out if you are looking for in person classes. Online real-time classes are an excellent alternative to in person classes if you are concerned about social interactions during this pandemic.   

I am currently taking Japanese classes through University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. UofT’s School of Continuing Studies is for learners at all stages whether you have graduated university or ever attended a university class before.  

Learning new languages opens so many opportunities. All you need to seize those opportunities is an open mind and patience. 

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