Improving your confidence
Among its many benefits, learning a foreign language helps you overcome your fear of making mistakes. The process of acquiring a set of grammatical rules and vocabulary that is different from your native ones forces you out of your comfort zone, and that effect boosts your confidence in other areas of your life as well.
Language coach Lina Vasquez shares her journey in becoming a confident speaker through learning foreign languages: “We’ve learned through practice and through time to put ourselves into uncomfortable situations because we know that that discomfort is only going to last for a [short] time, but the feeling of accomplishment and achievement that comes from stepping out of your boundaries is going to last forever.”
For one student at the University of Bristol, learning a new language meant he was able to break down geographical and social barriers. He says, “It’s given me the confidence to know that I can go 5,500 miles away from home and live a life there, have stability there, be able to get a job, speak the language, and live like a local.”
Better integration into society
Language is the basis of global communication. Being multilingual means being able to be a part of different societies and different communities. Studies show that speaking other languages makes you more empathetic as well - it allows you to understand people better and connect to their life experiences more profoundly.
According to the University of Bristol's Dr. Bradley Stephens, in addition to acquiring linguistic fluency, students who study other languages also develop significant intercultural understanding, which means “being able to move between and across cultures, to understand what it means to live in a global world.”
In other words, it makes you more open-minded. By studying languages, you get to know different cultures and appreciate how different people from different parts of the world can be.
Seizing better work opportunities
A 2019 survey by The Language Educator showed a significant increase in the demand for bilingual employees. According to the report from the survey, “The vast majority of U.S. employers say they rely on employees with language skills other than English to advance their business goals. Those unable to fill this need find themselves falling behind in the global market.” The survey results show that the top five most in-demand languages in the business world are Spanish, Chinese, French, Japanese, and German.
Language students at Bristol, for example, are well aware of the advantage they will hold when they enter the job market: “I definitely think that the fact that I speak the languages I do gave me the edge that I needed to set myself apart from other candidates.”
But becoming employees at multinational companies isn’t the only career path for multilingual students. The freelance market grows every year, and with it, the number of possible jobs for language students - many of which can be done from the comfort of your own home.
Meeting new people
Yes, studying languages brings all sorts of long-term health benefits and career opportunities. But, at the heart of it, language is how we connect with and understand each other. Thanks to the globalization process, now it’s possible to reach someone on the other side of the world in an instant or meet a friend who lives 6,000 miles away.
Many universities have programs specifically designed to help students connect with native speakers of their target language, as is the case with the Language Cafe at Tilburg University. The events reunite language students and native speakers who get to share linguistic and cultural experiences in a natural and carefree environment.
Because international travel is more accessible than ever, many people meet their soulmates far away from their home countries, as is the case of Nicole and Nick, a Greek-American couple that met during a vacation trip to Greece, and made the relationship work despite long distance, lockdowns, and visa issues. Nicole shares the importance of knowing a second language for their relationship: “English is Nick’s second language, and his trip to visit me in the U.S. was his first time ever leaving Greece. His parents and most of his family and friends don’t speak English, so I’m currently trying to learn Greek.”
A similar story happened to Haley, who, as told to Preply, met her Brazilian husband while they were both on a beach in Hawaii. On their first date, they spent seven hours talking to each other — Haley not realizing it was the longest her now husband had ever spoken in English in one stretch! Now, they live together in Barcelona, and Haley is learning Portuguese to get to know her husband on a deeper level and connect more properly with his family.
Don’t skip out on the chance of learning a new language
When you speak more than one language, you multiply the possibilities of sharing experiences with people you wouldn’t otherwise be able to. This leads to lifelong friendships and relationships that are maintained largely based on multilingualism.
In addition to connecting with people around the world, becoming multilingual can also bring a wide variety of career opportunities and valuable workplace and interpersonal skills that help you succeed in the job market.
But studying languages is also about personal fulfillment - it’s about growing as a person, identifying with a new culture and a new form of communication, and getting to know different versions of yourself through the way you speak. And the best part is that not only is there an immense amount of languages and dialects to choose from, but you don’t need to choose just one. You can study two or more simultaneously and enjoy the rewarding process of becoming fluent in a new language!