Thanks to the popularity of apps like Duolingo and Memrise, language learning has become increasingly popular. But what many people don't realize is that it's more than just a little hobby or a resume builder. Learning a new language can enhance every aspect of your life in the best of ways, and here's why you should give it a try.
1. Expand Your World
People often say that as technology develops, the world becomes smaller and smaller. In a way, it's true; we can receive news updates, information, and images from across the globe in a matter of seconds. But reading about the world and seeing pictures on a computer screen are nothing compared to the exhilaration of experiencing new places in reality. Learning a foreign language is the key to unlocking a world that is bigger than you could have ever imagined. Speaking French, for example, opens your job-search radius or vacation destination list to countless countries– France, Morocco, Canada, Switzerland… and once you are there, knowledge of their native language allows you to become more fully immersed in a unique culture and lifestyle you would otherwise miss.
2. New Language, New You
My Russian name tag, which says "Anya" in Cyrillic letters.
I have been addressed as "Hannah" in my Russian class all of one time– on the first day of my first semester, during attendance. Immediately after, my professor declared that from that point on in class, our "American" names would be null and void, to be replaced with Russian names that flowed better with the language. I was quickly christened "Anya", a diminutive form of the name Anna (Ah-na), the closest thing to Hannah that the Cyrillic alphabet offered. "It will be a fresh start. You can change who you are here." she insisted in her thick accent. "If Hannah was shy in class before, Anya can now be confident, or the class clown."
I doubted her at first, but over time, her words have proven to be true. Learning to speak Russian and embracing my identity as "Anya" has enabled me to find a part of myself that might have otherwise laid dormant– a student who is ready to answer instead of staying silent, eager to learn yet willing to laugh, and always ready to make a joke during class.
3. Discover New Media
Maître Gims in the "Est-ce que tu m'aimes" music video.
One of the best ways to learn a new language is by immersion– and for those of us who can't afford a one-way ticket to Paris or Moscow or Madrid, the best way to do that is through media. Sure, it helps to improve your listening skills, vocabulary, and reading, but you also get to discover entire new genres of music, TV, film, and books that you've never experienced before. You might just find your new favorite band while browsing foreign music on Spotify– I know I did. Some of my favorite songs today come from culture lessons and listening comprehension in my high school French classes! ("Elle me dit", anyone?)
"Ivan Vasilievich (Ivan the Terrible) Succumbs to Depression."
Learning a new language isn't just about grammar and vocabulary; you have to have a little fun, too, and a huge part of what makes up day-to-day conversations is humor. A great way to learn about pop culture and what's considered funny around the world is through studying the ins and outs of a language's meme culture. I have to admit, I've spent far too many hours "studying" when really I was just scrolling through memes in Russian. But finally understanding a joke in a foreign language and laughing out loud has to be one of the best feelings in the world!
5. Impress Your Friends
If you live in a primarily English-speaking region, speaking another language is considered akin to a superpower. Telling your friends you're learning another language will instantly make you the center of the conversation. People will want to know all of the details– if it's difficult, if you can read and write it, and if you can say every strange and obscure sentence they ask you to translate. My family asks me to speak Russian whenever I go home, and whatever I say, no matter how simple, never fails to impress them. Teaching your friends how to swear in another language is sure to be a big hit, too.
6. Challenge Yourself
Above all, the best part about learning another language is the challenge it brings. Whether it's through speaking faster, learning new vocabulary or grammar, or even just beginning to understand dialogue in a song or TV show, it gives me something to work for and feelings of accomplishment and pride. Sometimes it can be difficult and tedious (I'm looking at you, Russian genitive plural endings and French passé simple), but in the end, the ability to look back at everything you've learned and use your skills makes it all worth it.