Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Why Learning Languages is Great

Americans talk a lot (and loudly).  But around the world, people are still surprised to meet Americans that speak more than one language.  Even though more and more people are not as surprised to meet Americans might know a bit of Spanish, I've had a lot of conversations where people in other countries were surprised to meet an American who speaks Spanish (or another language) well.
Muy bien, Miguel.
 We're also notoriously bad at geography.

But, we also love to travel, and with more and more universities expanding their study abroad programs, now we can (one of the best things I think a student can do - I spent mine in Madrid, Spain in 2010).  Americans also speak languages other than English with increasing fluency.  According to the most recent US census, the percentage of the total population who speak Spanish increased from 2005 to 2011.
Source: click here.
And it's not just English and Spanish that are becoming popular.  Look at these maps from that show the popularity of languages spoken across the United States.  For reference, even that US census included 300 languages to measure for its data.
Source: click here.
The Washington Post also has a really cool graphic map measuring languages spoken by county.  The map includes languages where at least 10 percent of people in the county speak a language other than English at home.  Ten percent!  
Source: click here; you can zoom in the original source too!
If you're not into trends and aside from the growing popularity of languages other than English, why should you get down with multilingualism?  
The Huffington Post had an excellent article about all of the major benefits of speaking multiple languages.  The article echoed all of the reasons why I wanted to learn additional languages, and why I still want to continue learning (locking down Farsi fluency, then starting with French, then hopefully Arabic someday).  I won't post the article in its entirety, but you can click here for the full story.  In addition, I posted their listed six benefits below.
  1. You can understand and appreciate cultural references and nuances.
  2. Bilingualism can create job opportunities and help you navigate the world.
  3. You notice and appreciate things that are sometimes lost in translation.
  4. You feel a sense of connection with your heritage, history, and family.
  5. Your interactions with people of different cultures go deeper.
  6. And lastly, your self-expression excitingly takes on a multitude of forms.*
*This last point isn't just referring to the hilarious/confusing times when I say a sentence in a mixture of English/Spanish.Farsi, but rather that people who speak multiple languages fluently or with a high degree of proficiency have different personalities when they are speaking each language.  It's pretty cool.

So get inspired!  Make deeper connections with the people around you and experience to the fullest extent everything this world of ours has to offer!


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