Why Study a Foreign Language?
Learning a foreign language takes time and dedication. The reasons below may help to convince you to take the plunge, if such persuasion is needed. Some reasons are practical, some aspirational, some intellectual and others sentimental, but whatever your reasons, having a clear idea of why you're learning a language can help to motivate you in your studies.
When you move to a different country or region, learning the local language will help you to communicate and integrate with the local community. Even if many of the locals speak your language, for example if your first language is English and you move to the Netherlands, it's still worth your while learning the local language. Doing so will demonstrate your interest in and commitment to the new country.
Family and Friends
If your partner, in-laws, relatives or friends speak a different language, learning that language will help you to communicate with them. It will also give you a better understanding of their culture and way of thinking.
If your work involves regular contact with speakers of foreign languages, being able to talk to them in their own languages will help you to communicate with them. It may also help you to make sales and to negotiate and secure contracts. Knowledge of foreign languages may also increase your chances of finding a new job, getting a promotion or a transfer overseas, or of going on foreign business trips.
Many English speakers seem to believe that wherever you go on holiday you can get by speaking English, so there's no point in learning any other languages. If people don't understand you all you have to do is speak slowly and turn up the volume. You can more or less get away with this, as long as you stick to popular tourist resorts and hotels where you can usually find someone who speaks English. However, if you want to venture beyond such places, to get to know the locals, to read signs, menus, etc., knowing the local language is necessary.
A basic ability in a foreign language will help you to "get by," i.e., to order food and drink, find your way around, buy tickets, etc. If you have a more advanced knowledge of the language, you can have real conversations with the people you meet, which can be very interesting and will add a new dimension to your holiday.
If you plan to study at a foreign university, college or school, you'll need a good knowledge of the local language, unless the course you want to study is taught through the medium of your first language. Your institution will probably provide preparatory courses to improve your language skills, as well as continuing support throughout your main course.
Getting in Touch With Your Roots
If your family spoke a particular language in the past you might want to learn it and possibly teach it to your children. It could also be useful if you are researching your family tree and you come across some documents written in a language foreign to you.
If you're interested in the literature, poetry, films, TV programs, music or some other aspect of the culture of people who speak a particular language, you may want to learn their language in order to gain a better understanding of their culture.
Missionaries and other religious types learn languages in order to spread their message. In fact, missionaries have played a major role in documenting languages and devising writing systems for many of them. Others learn the language(s) in which the scriptures/holy books of their religion were originally written to gain a better understanding of them. For example, Christians might learn Hebrew, Aramaic and Biblical Greek; Muslims might learn Classical Arabic, and Buddhists might learn Sanskrit.
Maybe you enjoy the challenge of learning foreign languages or of learning a particularly difficult language.
To Better Understand Our Thought Processes
All of our thought processes are conducted in language, so really our entire existence, or essence, or soul, or however we phrase it, is inextricably bound to and with the languages we speak. For instance, try to think without language. However, we see that the language is in essence superficial, since many languages exist. To understand the true roots of our thought processes, the real nature of the human soul, a knowledge of several languages may be necessary.
To Better Understand the Rest of Humankind
Language is an aspect of humanity, and learning what a fellow human speaks teaches you more about humankind as a whole. The more languages you know, the more you understand our species, and that is beneficial no matter what the situation is.
To Talk to Friends Without Others Understanding
If you and some of your friends learn a foreign language, you'll be able to talk to each other without other people having a clue what you're saying. This works best if you choose a language few people study, such as Japanese.
To Help People in Need
Learning other languages increases our chances of providing help to people who seriously need it, such as those hit by the tsunami of 2004, many of whom cannot communicate in English, especially children.
My best friend is French and speaks English, Spanish and some German as well. I am trying to learn French to enhance our communication, though he doesn't demand nor expect it.
To Help You Understand How Other People Think
Language influences culture, so learning a language helps you to understand how other people think, and it also helps you get a general understanding of our world and the many people and cultures that inhabit it.
To Better Understand Your Own Language
In order to learn another language, you need to learn the different titles and functions of sentence parts. Learning these things can make you a better student and a more articulate person. Also, many of the root words used in foreign vocabulary will help you later as you struggle to comprehend or analyze new words in your native language.
For more information, contact:
TCC, International Language Center