In today’s global society being bilingual is one of the most advantageous skills you can have. With several financial, employment, as well as social and health benefits to knowing a second language, it is surprising that only one quarter of Brits are actually able to speak in another tongue.
Learning a new language takes time and dedication, but the development of smartphone technology has brought new opportunities to fit learning into your daily routine. Language apps such as Duolingo allow you to learn new words and phrases while on the go, such as during commutes or lunch breaks.
With so many opportunities at your fingertips, there has never been a better time to learn a new language. Here are six reasons why it could be one of the most rewarding things you do.
Having a second language boosts your employability
UK exports are currently valued at around £25 billion which is expected to rise with more businesses looking to expand to overseas markets. With more overseas trade comes a greater need for foreign language speakers. Being bilingual then becomes one of the strongest traits an employee can have.
A 2013 study by the Cardiff Business School estimated that not having a multilingual workforce could be costing the British economy £48 billion each year.
Further education recruiters AoC Jobs points out that recruiters look favourably upon bilinguals. In a pool of candidates with similar skills, speaking a foreign language will probably give you the edge over the competition, even if the need isn’t the employer’s top priority. The Confederation of British Industry found that 74% of employers look for applicants with conversational ability in a second language.
It literally pays off to be bilingual
Having a second language is not only beneficial to your company, it can lead to salary increases of up to an extra 3.8% per year for you. It will also open up international travel and networking opportunities.
In 2012, the Centre for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies found that bilingual Latinos in New York City earned $15,000 more annually than NYC Latinos who only spoke English. Furthermore, in such as sales, marketing or technical support, speaking a second language can mean a pay increase of between 10% and 15%.
Knowing a second language can offset neurodegenerative diseases
A 2013 study published in medical journal Neurology found that knowing a second language could offset the development of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia for almost five years. Researchers looked at 684 patients with dementia and discovered that, on average, bilingual patients developed the condition 4.5 years later than those who only spoke one language.
Scientists think this protection stems from bilinguals being able to exercise a brain network called the executive control system more. The executive control system involves parts of the prefrontal cortex and is the basis of our ability to think in complex ways. Bilinguals constantly have to exercise this brain system to prevent their two languages from interfering with one another all this work seems to confer a cognitive benefit
Boost your brainpower with another language
Foreign language learning can also boost the cognitive function of your brain. Swedish scientists have discovered that it can in fact increase the size of your brain. Learning other languages alters grey matter, the area of the brain which processes information, in the same way exercise builds muscles.
Ellen Bialystok, a psychologist from York University in Toronto, found that students who study foreign languages scored better on standardised tests than monolingual peers. Studies have also found that people who speak more than one language are better at remembering lists or sequences, more perceptive to their surroundings and are even more self-aware spenders than monolinguals. Keeping you memory shape is invaluable in any job but especially in PA roles.
Learning a foreign language increases your cultural knowledge
Translation experts London Translations say that it is important to be sensitive and aware of cultural knowledge, idioms and customs for successful international communication. There have been several high profile blunders where multinational companies have fallen foul of cultural awareness. Beverage brand Schweppes for instance encouraged Italians to buy toilet water instead of tonic when they didn’t take into account that “il water” means “the bathroom” in Italian.
Everybody has a different motive for learning a language and this article has only scratched the surface of the potential benefits. It’s not an easy process, it takes time, persistence and dedication, but if you can challenge yourself to learn a new language the investment will be worth it.