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By Dr. Barry Chametzky
Faculty Member, School of Arts and Humanities, American Public University
We have all certainly heard the expression that the world is getting smaller. While Tennessee surgeon Dr. Timothy Fabian says that this phrase might be viewed pejoratively, the implication of this expression is that human beings are exposed more readily and easily to different opinions and ways of life.
The importance of having global connections in the 21st century cannot be overstated. In order to prepare ourselves more adequately for these connections and opportunities, it is vital to learn a foreign language.
Foreign Language Use Rising in US Households
According to the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP), the number of people who speak another language at home has increased since the 1970s. As of 2018, AATSP states that there are “more than sixty-five million U.S. residents who speak a language other than English at home.”
While that number seems rather high, in fact, it accounts for only one-fifth of the total U.S. population. A smaller number of those people are sufficiently fluent to use another language on a daily basis, says the U.S. Census Bureau.
Given these statistics/numbers and the ease with which the Internet connects nearly every corner of the globe, it behooves us to ask why we should learn another language? What would it “buy” us? There are four reasons why knowing another language is useful.
#1: Fluency in a Foreign Language Creates More Career Possibilities
With skills in one or more foreign languages, you will stand out from other applicants. Additionally, you can enter the workforce in many different industries, such as international organizations, international associations, immigration and tourism.
For example, if you are interested in joining the foreign service or getting into intelligence, learning a foreign language can certainly help you. Because there are so many varied fields in which languages are useful, it is not possible to present a one-size-fits-all website for jobs; do a Google search and you will see how many job opportunities exist.
Also, most foreign language classes teach you about the culture of other countries. This cultural knowledge is useful when you’re doing business with native speakers, because you can communicate more easily with them and are less likely to accidentally cause offense through cultural mistakes.
#2: Languages with Grammatical Similarities Are Easy to Master
If you choose to learn a Romance language like French, there are additional benefits because Romance languages have grammatical similarities. If you learn one Romance language, you could easily learn a second one.
#3: You Develop Greater Appreciation for Your Native Language
With an understanding of another language – even a rudimentary one – you gain new insights and a greater appreciation for your own language. As native speakers of English, we often take our language for granted. After all, we speak and read it fluently.
But learning a foreign language helps us appreciate the simplicities and complexities of our own language.
#4: Knowing Someone Else’s Language Is Conducive to Getting Help from Native Speakers
Learning another language can be lots of fun. If you know the basics of a language (greetings and basic social amenities), native speakers will generally be more amenable to helping you out. They will appreciate that you took the time to learn THEIR language.
With these opportunities and benefits, the question that must be asked is this one: Why are you NOT studying a foreign language?
About the Author
Barry Chametzky earned his Ph.D. in Education from Northcentral University with specializations in educational technology, e-learning and classic grounded theory. He also holds master’s degrees in music, French, and foreign language education. Dr. Chametzky is an active researcher in the fields of andragogy, e-learning, and classic grounded theory with numerous peer-reviewed publications and book chapters to his credit.
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