The importance of learning a second language

By Brooke Bailey 

“A different language is a different vision of life.” Federico Fellini, Italian film director.

This quote succinctly expresses why everyone should learn another language. When you learn another language, you are able to learn about a different culture, lifestyle and society.
I am currently working towards a minor in Spanish here at the University of Maine, and though I am not fluent yet, it is my ultimate goal.

Throughout my years of studying another language, I have not only discovered a new way of communicating, but I have experienced a completely different culture. I have become aware of, and experienced Hispanic music, film, dance and most importantly, delicious food. Though English is the most widely used language in the United States, languages like Spanish and Chinese are spoken more throughout the globe. We shouldn’t limit our language to only English just because it is the most common in our country.

Learning another language can be beneficial to all of us. It can help enhance skills like communication and critical thinking. Since studying a language involves a variety of skills, it can enhance one’s ability to learn and function in several other areas. People who have learned a second language tend to show expansive cognitive development in areas like creativity, problem-solving, reasoning and conceptualizing.

Along with its many cognitive benefits, learning another language is an excellent resume builder. In today’s world, many companies are looking to do business in other countries, making it a crucial ability to communicate in different languages. If you can speak two languages, your resume will be much more attractive to these sorts of companies. Business or not, knowing another language can help you in many fields — education, politics, engineering, medical. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, learning a second language can help you deeply appreciate the world we live in.

The increasing war, violence and divisions in this world make it extremely important for people to connect on cultural levels. We are all human beings who inhabit this earth, and if different cultures cannot communicate with one another, we will never know peace and understanding. Without learning how another culture communicates, it is impossible to fully access and understand that culture. We need more people who understand multiple languages to bridge the gap between cultures and help bring our world closer together.

Learning another language can also help you personally connect with people from other countries. Americans are often viewed as egocentric, uninformed and xenophobic. Now that may be false for many Americans, but according to Forbes, only 18 percent of Americans report speaking a language other than English compared to the 53 percent of Europeans that report it. Numerous countries teach their youth multiple languages, while the United States is one of the only industrialized countries that doesn’t require graduating students to learn a language other than English. This should change so that more Americans can experience the benefits of speaking multiple languages.

Communication is the essence of life, whether it be with words, actions, expressions or thoughts. Do not put a boundary around your means of communication. If you have an opportunity to learn another language, do it. In fact, learn five more. Go to other countries and learn the way that they communicate, and speak with them. Or start on a smaller level and examine our university’s foreign language department. Take part in language and multicultural events around campus. Learn simple vocabulary on the internet.

Don’t be a participant in another American stereotype.  Show the world that we are informed about different cultures and we want to be able to communicate with everyone. Not everyone should have to learn English. The realm of communication goes far beyond the English language, waiting to be explored.

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