If you’re a regular to our blog, you know we love languages. And we’re not alone.
More than half of high school students in Europe study two or more languages.
Statistics on world figures are a little hazier, but it’s estimated that 43% of the world’s population are bilingual, 13% are trilingual, a narrow 3% are multilingual (four languages) and a tiny slither (1%) are classed as Polyglots (five or more languages.)
But why do people learn new languages in the first place?
Here are the Top 10 Reasons people learn new languages. Which reason(s) did you have?
1. Learning a language for self-improvement
If you look at the booming gym industry and the busy university systems, it’s clear. People like to invest time and money in themselves.
But it’s not just about finding a way to spend your time, it’s something more than that. There is something deeply rewarding about challenging yourself and succeeding.
This is why so many people resolve to take up a new language as one of their New Year’s Resolutions: because they want to see if they can do it.
Whether they’re coming at it from a purely academic perspective, trying to expand their education, or from a more creative perspective of testing themselves, one of the top reasons to learn a language is for self-development.
2. Learning a language for love
People talk about the language of love, but actually, a lot of bilingual partners understand how important it is to try and learn the other person’s native tongue. Especially if they want to keep up at the dinner table over Christmas.
Whether people learn a language in order to meet new people, or in order to better communicate with someone they already know and love, learning a language for a partner is fast becoming one of the biggest reasons people pick up a second, third or even fourth tongue.
3. Learning a language for work
In times gone by, having multiple languages meant you could be a teacher or a translator. Which is great, if teaching or translating is y.our bag (clearly it’s ours!)
But nowadays, having another language gives you a much wider pool of opportunity. You could work with an international company, international clients, or even get a post in another country.
Learning a language for business is one of the fastest growing reasons to learn languages in our global economy.
4. Learning a language because you have emigrated
Following on from the above, a lot of people learn a language because they’ve moved to a new country and want to settle in and integrate quickly. Something as simple as being able to understand what people are chatting about on the bus makes somewhere feel less like a foreign country, and more like home.
In a recent study, Swedish was the most common language being learned in Sweden. This is because the number of people moving to Sweden in the past few years has grown significantly (including me!) and they want to be able to speak the local lingo (even though most Swedes also speak perfect English.)
5. Learning a language to improve communication skills
Language learning doesn’t just have the direct benefits, it has indirect ones, too.
Scientific studies have shown that people who know two or more languages are clearer and more confident communicators than those who only know their mother tongue.
Not only this, but a 2011 study showed that when you learn a second language, you not only expand your vocabulary in your native language, you also gain a deeper understanding of your native language, too.
6. Learning a language to improve general problem-solving skills
Language learning boosts your memory and your logical faculties, which are directly linked to your problem-solving skills. This means language learning helps you recall information faster, and identify problems more quickly, too.
It also improves your skills in divergent thinking, which is being able to think up multiple solutions to a single problem.
Learning a language in order to ‘brain train’ and become more robust when it comes to identifying and solving complex problems has been on the rise since 2006.
Science has proven that language learning helps prevent cognitive decline. A study of Alzheimer’s found that bilingual people experienced symptoms an average of 5 years later than monolingual subjects did. If that’s not reason enough…!
7. Learning a language to participate more fully in a culture
In a survey of 581 alumni from an International Management School, graduates entering the workforce said they had a competitive advantage over other applicants because of their background in languages, as well as their increased cultural perception.
But learning a language isn’t just good to get to know a new culture, it’s important to become part of that culture, too. When you learn a new language, a whole new world of movies, books, songs and annoying TV jingles open themselves up to you.
What better way to get to know a culture than through it’s love of books, music, and art forms?
8. Learning a language to understand humanity better
I could have written ‘learning a language to travel’ here, but I think that misses the point. When we learn a language in order to travel, it’s not just to survive. It’s to communicate.
Language creates a human-to-human connection that few other mediums can rival. They say the best way to get to know someone is to walk a day in their shoes, but actually, it’s to start speaking their language.
Not only does learning a new language make you (on the whole) more liberal and accepting, it also expands your worldview and breaks down the barriers between you and people from other cultures.
As more people travel, this becomes more and more important.
9. Learning a language to make more money
This is a little more niche, but certainly, those working in large, multi-national or global corporations know that the quickest way to increase your pay packet is to cover more than one area at once.
In the United Kingdom, you could earn up to an additional £145,000 across the course of your career by knowing another language. This is because companies are prepared to pay as much as 12% more for people that can speak a second or third language.
In the USA, it’s calculated there’s roughly a 2% premium on languages, with some languages commanding more bang for its buck than others. German ranked the highest, with companies prepared to pay up to 3.8% more than the average worker for those who spoke German as a second language. Overall, you could increase your earning potential by $128,000 over the course of your career.
10. Learning a language to become more confident
We mentioned confidence a bit earlier when we spoke about the fact that people who improve their communication skills often also give their confidence a bit of a boost.
But confidence is reason enough for a lot of people who may find it difficult speaking to strangers, talking in group situations or even just one to one.
Learning a new language involves challenging yourself to communicate with others, even when you feel uncomfortable. This is daunting even for the most extroverted of language learners, which is why it’s no surprise that learning a new language often comes hand in hand with people wanting to improve their confidence levels.
What’s your reason?
Let us know in the comments below!