Learning a second language is a great way to get your brain working and learn a useful skill. Yet many students today are sticking to English and forgoing foreign language studies. Why are they choosing to limit themselves to one language?
One reason could be the time and dedication it takes to learn a second language. Students are shying away from language studies because they are perceived as difficult. Not only is studying a foreign language hard, it’s not necessarily a practical skill for most careers. There has been a big push in recent years to get students to study STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects, which are seen as being more useful when it comes to finding employment. Languages may have fallen behind due to the number of students opting to go into STEM fields instead.
The prevalence of English has also made studying languages less important in the eyes of many students. English is commonly spoken all around Europe and is the international language of business. There is more pressure for non-English speakers to learn English than there is for English speakers to learn another language and it is often tested by potential employers through means such as the IELTS test.
Finally, technology has played a role in the decline of foreign language studies. With the internet and the easy availability of translation software, many no longer see a need for humans to learn other languages. Instead, they rely on computers to translate everything into English.
But these reasons should not be used as an excuse to stop teaching foreign languages to students. The benefits of learning a foreign language go far beyond the ability to translate between English and another language.
For one, learning a foreign language is good for your brain. It forces you to use new parts of the brain and new studies show that learning a second language actually causes your brain to increase in size, whereas studying other subjects, like science, have no effect. Learning another language can also help English speakers understand their own language better, as they’re forced to learn about sentence structure and parts of speech in order to speak their new language.
The benefits of learning a new language go beyond one’s own brain, too. When students study a foreign language, they also usually tend to learn about the places where that language is spoken and the history and culture surrounding the language. This can help promote cross-cultural understanding and open students’ eyes to new ways of looking at the world.
Finally, for students who want to travel, it may be better to learn another language rather than relying on others to learn English. Learning the language of another country shows that you have taken an interest in truly experiencing the country. It opens you up to more authentic interactions with locals and can make travel far more rewarding.
While technology may be able to translate words and phrases from one language to another, it cannot replace the human elements of language. Language isn’t just about translating words. It’s about embracing something foreign, and at the same time, it allows you to expand your own mind and worldview.
If we allow foreign languages to become a lost art, we will lose much more than just the ability to speak another language. We will lose the connections that can be built by taking the time to immerse ourselves in other cultures.