Why should you learn a foreign language?

Sometimes I find myself thinking ‘why did I decide to study Spanish all the way through school up to university level?

What is it that I love about having the ability to speak to Spaniards in their native language? It wasn’t just the encouragement from my parents that made me study the language for such a long time, but also the fact that I love making people smile – something that speaking to people in their mother tongue definitely does.

After having lived in Spain during my studies, I had the chance to put my language skills into real-life practice; speaking to Spanish people in their own language. One of the reasons why I love speaking to people in their native language is seeing their face light up – even the smallest gesture can put a smile on someone’s face. I recently travelled to Greece not knowing a single word of Greek, and decided to try and learn a few phrases beforehand. Being able to say “Kalimera”, “Efkharisto” and “Yassou” (“good morning”, “thank you” and “hello”) made my experience so much more enjoyable – even just a few words allowed me to become more immersed into the culture.

Not only does learning a foreign language allow you to be part of another culture, but it also has other benefits for our minds. Recent studies show that learning a second language has visible effects on the brain.

Problem solving

Speaking a foreign language challenges the brain to recognise, understand, and communicate in different languages. The different grammatical structures that are found within different languages are one of the major conundrums linguists face.

Warding off Alzheimer’s and dementia

Various studies with consistent results have shown that for monolingual adults, the average age for the first signs of dementia is 71. For adults who speak two or more languages, the average age rises to 75.

Improved memory

Not only can you prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia, but you can also improve your memory. Educators have described the brain to be like a muscle and learning to memorise vocabulary and grammar rules actually strengthens that muscle.

Encouraging language learning in Britain

Despite these advantages, only 38% of British people can speak a second language, and less than half of students continue to study languages at GCSE level. In order to promote languages, we must encourage the introduction of language at an early school age and highlight the career potential for language students.

In championing language learning, Capita TI operates an internship programme which offers students an insight into the world of professional translation and interpreting.

Find out more about internships


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