Polyglot Perks

Signpost with languages

There are many great reasons to take a foreign language.
Image: Shutterstock

In high school, with early hours, a heavy class load, and half a dozen teachers at a time who all think you can make their class your only priority, it’s easy to feel like taking a foreign language is just one more burden. And with many universities cutting language requirements, it may seem like a burden you don’t even need.

But you’re wrong.

If your high school is a good one, they require at least one year of a foreign language to graduate. One year is a tasting. You’ll wind up with enough vocabulary to ask where the bathroom is, but probably not enough focus on pronunciation to make yourself understood. It’s a start, though, and that’s valuable. Take advantage of that year to ask your teacher for more resources, for advice on language software or translated novels to read.

If you live in a diverse area, having a spare language will help you in the workplace. Get anywhere approaching fluent, and it can even help you get a job. (Note: You can’t bluff at this level. If you say you speak Polish and they hire you, you’d better be able to speak and understand Polish.) Different locales and different industries swing towards different language families. Take what you speak and see where it will get you.

Traveling. Seems like these days, you can get anywhere you want to with English and maybe a translator app, but actually speaking the language is invaluable. You’ll spend less money and be safer if you can keep track of what people are saying around you, all over the world.

Culture. Some people may say it’s not necessary to speak a language to understand the culture from which it comes, but language is born of culture. Other languages have words that have no translation in English. You have to learn those languages to learn why.

And last, simple communication. Learning a second, third, or fourth language will always teach you new things about your own and about how communication itself works. English is only one facet of a very large, infinitely complex whole.


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