The social case for language learning
Learning a language is typically associated with new opportunities in foreign countries; whether professionally – opening doors to new career options abroad – or for the budding traveller, keen to be able to navigate their way around their next destination.
While these may be the first things that spring to mind when you think about learning a new language, there are other, less obvious benefits to broadening your language horizons.
Language learning is a useful tool for self-reflection; as your language awareness increases, you will become more exposed to the arts and culture of the nation you are studying. Being able to immerse yourself in the literature, poetry, film and history of a country allows you to compare and contrast them to your own.
This has the potential to open your mind to attitudes and ideas that you may never have considered before – we don’t often think about how differently our day-to-day ways of life may be when compared to a culture that is not our own.
Languages open doors
When we think about the impacts of learning a new language, our thoughts may instantly switch to visions of tropical beaches, big bustling cities and tourist attractions. We may not immediately realise that a new language can open doors closer to home.
There are people from many different nationalities and walks of life in Britain; now that you have greater access to the cultures around you, you may want to think about getting involved in local community events. This can be mutually beneficial; you will be able to practice the language you are learning, whilst contributing to a good cause and helping others.
Languages build communities
Of course, once you are able to engage in community events with people from different nationalities you will become exposed to new social circles. Naturally, this will lead to you gaining a new pool of people to befriend and make connections with.
It is important to have a circle of friends, or even acquaintances, who come from different places, are different ages or have differing opinions. We can all learn from listening to other people’s views, whether we agree with them or not.
There are some things that you can only pick up on when you are part of a conversation with native speakers– small nuances that you may not cover in the classroom, slang, tone of voice and gestures. By being part of a circle that speaks the language you are learning, it is far more likely that you will begin to sound fluent and natural.
Language is at the very core of who we are as individuals, nations and communities – it is a powerful tool that, while taking many hours of commitment, has the ability to connect us with others, open doors to career opportunities and allows us to truly understand the world.
Lea Aylett is the Academic Director at The Language Gallery (TLG).