15 Great Benefits of Learning a Second Language (or 3rd, or 4th, or 5th…)

Thinking of becoming bilingual or multilingual? We discuss the many benefits of learning a second language, from health to career and more!

Did you know that an estimated 60 to 75% of people in the world speak at least a second language?

This means that those who only speak one language are actually in the minority and might be missing out on all of the advantages different languages can offer.

But what are the benefits of learning a second language?

In this post, we’ll dive deep into why learning a second language is beneficial, from helping you in school and in your career to even boosting your mental health. Scroll down below and let’s get started!

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1. Learning a Second Language Stimulates Your Brain

Just like a muscle, using your brain for different and more complex tasks can make it stronger. When you learn a second language, you are putting your brain to use, tackling whole new sets of grammar and lexis.

As you try to learn the language, your brain uses all hemispheres. When speaking your own language, you will use mainly the left side of the brain. This kind of challenge to the brain keeps strengthening it and increases the size of white and gray matter.

The more gray matter you have, the more cells you have and that makes your brain stronger. White matter allows messages to travel faster across the networks in the brain, so having more of it helps keep the brain working optimally.

2. It Improves Focus and Attention Span

Attention spans are getting shorter, with smartphones and other mobile options making it harder to concentrate on anything for very long. The average attention span has gone down from twelve seconds to eight seconds.

One of the reasons to learn a new language is that you can improve your attention span. It can help with focusing and blocking out distractions. A 2012 Northwestern University study found that bilingual people find it easier to pay attention and to block distractions.

Multilingual people have learned how to tune out unimportant information and how to focus on what is important. Fluently bilingual people do not make language substitution mistakes because of code-switching. It is the process of selecting a language and it helps prioritize information.

Related Read: Important Benefits of Studying Abroad & Top Reasons to Take the Leap

3. Helps You Make Better Long-Term Decisions

Another of the benefits of being bilingual is that it affects your decision-making skills. This is because multilingual people are more emotionally detached when they speak a language that is not their native one.

Being able to create this detachment can train a person to distance themselves from impulses. Someone who speaks a second language will base their decisions and actions more on analysis, because it encourages deliberate and not emotional thought processes.

4. It Changes How You See the World

This is not a euphemism. Learning a new language allows you to make visual distinctions among stimuli. This is most easily seen with colors.

A person who learns different names for shades of colors in a second language will be more likely to actually see them in real life even if they had never noticed them before. It does not make physiological changes to the body, but it does offer a different way of looking at the world.

Related Read: Why Study in Canada? 10 Great Reasons for Canadian Study Abroad

5. Knowing Another Language Makes You More Creative

When you engage your brain to learn a new language, you are learning about other cultures and you are widening your knowledge of the world. This boosts your creativity.

Trying to use the right words in a second language improves your divergent thinking, which is the ability to see many solutions to a problem. It also stimulates the areas of the brain that are artistic and creative.

6. A Second Language Can Improve Your Native Language

When you speak your native language, you are not thinking about its grammar or other technicalities. When you start learning a second language, however, you will become more aware of how languages are built.

Studies show that learning a second language improves your literacy and communication skills in your native tongue.

Once you know how to tackle difficulties in a language other than your native one, you can perfect your mother tongue.

It can also make you a better listener in your first language, and someone who is able to get nuances in tone and vocabulary.

Related Read: Why Volunteer? 5 Great Benefits of Volunteering & Community Service

7. Learning New Languages Helps You Build Multitasking Skills

With attention spans getting shorter, multi-tasking has become almost impossible. When you learn a new language, however, your brain will become used to switching between languages. This teaches it to switch between tasks as well.

There is a study from the National Institutes of Health that shows multilingual people are better able to tackle tasks at the same time. They are faster at doing so, too.

8. Being Multilingual Increases Your Career Options

The job market is more competitive than ever and you want to be able to stand out. This is one of the most important reasons to learn a new language, because being multilingual makes you more likely to get hired. 

If there are many applicants to a position, having another language under your belt can be the thing that tips the scales in your favor. Because people who speak more than one language tend to be better problem solvers and have better communication skills, employers actively look for second languages in resumes.

Being bilingual allows you to be able to find work in more than your native country. Even if you work in your native country, employers will be able to rely on you for communicating overseas and with other communities.

Related Read: Why Study in Australia? 10 Compelling Reasons to Go Down Under for University

9. It Might Help Boost Your Self-Esteem

Learning a new language and using it in casual conversation makes you do something that is difficult. You will be afraid of making mistakes, but that gets better the more you do it. This helps in all aspects of life, since it trains your brain to do things it may not be comfortable with.

The more you speak the second language and engage with others in that language, the better your self-esteem will be. That, in turn, will encourage you to keep trying, creating a cycle of positive reinforcement.

10. Become a Better Traveler With Bilingualism

Being able to speak the language of a place you are visiting can make the traveling experience more enjoyable. You will not have to rely on tours or translators, allowing you to plan the exact trip you want. If you speak the language, you can explore and see things that regular tourists may not get a chance to experience.

It also saves you money when you travel. You will not have to book expensive tours that may not offer everything that you want to see. There will be no need to hire a translator, either, allowing you to spend that money on seeing something you really want to see.

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11. It Makes It Easier to Learn Another Language (Third, Fourth, Fifth…)

Once you have learned one, it will be much easier to learn another. You will have better cognitive skills and your brain will be able to process different linguistic structures.

Learning a second language gives you tools and a blueprint that you can use to learn as many other languages as you want.

12. It Helps to Slow Down Cognitive Decline

Multilingualism can help prevent dementia and can slow down the process of Alzheimer’s by years. 

Because speaking more than one language increases and strengthens the neural pathways in the brain, information finds different channels to go through.

If you speak another language, you can stave off cognitive decline by an average of four and a half years.

Related Read: Why Study in Singapore? 9 Benefits of Studying Abroad in the Lion City

13. New Languages Offer You the Chance to Meet New People

Being able to speak another language opens you up to other cultures and to other people. Just the process of attending classes for the language exposes you to new ideas and groups of people.

You will be able to travel and speak with people, building up your networking base as well as your friend base.

14. Studying Another Language Can Make You More Open-Minded

Another of the benefits of learning a foreign language is that it lets you see the world from different perspectives. When you learn a language, you learn more about the culture of the people who speak it. This immersion into other people’s worldview makes you much more open-minded.

You will become more aware of the beliefs that other people have, increasing your empathy and learning that other people’s worldviews are as valid as yours.

15. Learning a Different Language Improves Skills in Other Academic Areas

You can apply the cognitive skills you gain from learning another language to any other academic area. Students can get better scores on standardized tests, including reading and math.

Language skills boost your problem-solving skills, making you a better student and allowing you to tackle difficulties in your everyday life.

Related Read: Why Study in Russia? 9 Captivating Reasons to Try Russian Study Abroad

Give Yourself a Chance to Succeed

There are many benefits of learning a second language, and it can enhance every part of your life, from your education and career to your personal life and mental health.

If you were looking for a great way to improve just about every aspect of your life, it’s hard to beat becoming bilingual or multilingual.

Got any other reasons why should you learn a new language to add to our list? Let us know below in the comments, and we do thank you for reading. Finally, read more self-improvement tips on our blog to improve yourself further!

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Goodwall Team
Written By Goodwall Team
This article was written by the Goodwall team or by a contributor for publication on Goodwall. Goodwall is dedicated to helping students, entrepreneurs, and young professionals reach their full potential. We'll share thought-provoking and supportive articles on career advice, self-improvement, navigating the college landscape, climate action, social impact, and more. On the business side, we'll talk about SMB subjects related to community, diversity, talent acquisition, case studies, and enterprise.

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