Most people know what I’m saying when I call out, “Bonjour!” or “Hola!” or if I say “Paris,” in a prissy accent. But will the average person on A-Walk understand when I declare, “Vous devriez parler un autre langue! C’est une bonne idée, à mon avis!” I would take a wild guess that, no, most people would not catch the gist of what I want to say. So I’ll spell it out in an English blog post: there are many reasons for studying foreign languages… not just understanding your friends when they break out into other languages.
Reason 1: Do something interesting, meet interesting people.
You can learn about another person’s ideas by speaking with them. Everyone has a story to tell, and it doesn’t matter which language in which they tell it. You never know who you’re going to meet on any given day. Also, for those underclassmen planning ahead, and those upperclassmen looking for internships and jobs, foreign language proficiency can open a lot of doors, and conversations lead to bigger networks, and bigger networks can lead to better (cooler) internships and eventual jobs. But more on that later. For now, check out Angus’ adventures in Spain, and all of his experiences studying abroad!
Reason 2: Learn another culture.
Yes, I am fully aware that this reason has been shouted from the rooftops of all foreign-language institutions. However, they’re absolutely right. Like I said in the previous reason, there are scads of ideas out there, who knows which ones you will like the best until you experience them? We can all seem insane to each other by not learning about one another, or we can learn and experience, broadening our own horizons. And, really, you may end up liking another culture better than your own. For example, Europe generally has a different dress standard than us Americans. Being a lover of finding my own fashion, I love this aspect of Europe more than I appreciate the comfort of acceptably wearing sweats to class.
Reason 3: Understand one language, understand (at least) two.
When you take a foreign language, you are exposed to so many more words and ways of piecing together your thoughts that you can’t help but notice your own native language’s structure. Once you gain the ability to think using two different grammatical structures, suddenly, learning another one gets exponentially easier. German, for example, is both infamous and famous for its grammar. But it is a very structured language, so once you catch on to the rules, the higher levels get easier, as well as other languages which are similar to German, like Dutch…and English.
Reason 4: It just looks fantastic.
Everyone that looks at a résumé wants to see another language on there. Undergraduate programs love it; graduate programs love it; employers love it. Companies desperately need proficient foreign-language speakers. And in this job market, any boost is a wonderful, beautiful thing. I’m telling you, every single degree out there involves people from around the world. Why would you not give yourself that advantage over all the competition, particularly for a multinational corporation, where there is potentially lots of room for advancement?
I could go on forever about this, because there are more than a million reasons to take a foreign language… literally. Just Google, “Reasons to take a foreign language,” and you’ll find about 26,600,000 results in less than a quarter of a second. If none of my ideas measure up to your standards, I am absolutely positive that you will find something to pique your interest in that Google search.
And one last thing before I go: I know learning a language can be hard sometimes. Trust me, I’m working on studying abroad in France next semester, and I just started Mandarin Chinese. But the key to everything is sticking with it. Find a language you love then commit like it’s a relationship. Every last bit of effort is worth the satisfaction you feel when you have that first conversation with someone else in a different language.