10 reasons why you should learn a new language

By Cromwell Salvatera

8 March, 2017

Tens of thousands of young people around Australia have taken the plunge and started learning a new language, gaining common ground with the billions of non-English speakers around the world. Hundreds of students a year start studying a language here at the University of Sydney, and here are 10 reasons why you should too.


The power of languages be confident in a job interview

1) Communicate with grandma and grandpa

Perhaps like a lot of Australians, your family were once migrants from abroad. Learning the language of your parents or grandparents can bridge the gap to your culture that you have been searching for and reignite a connection to your family history. Being able to reminisce with your grandparents directly without translation from mum or dad will help you to become closer and one day you will look back and cherish the connection you shared. Hearing stories from the past in the native language of your family will provide you with the insight and understanding you may be missing right now and will help you to connect with your culture.

 2) Gain a thorough understanding of another culture

 One great aspect of learning a language is being able to appreciate the culture. Culture gives context to language; you can often only gain an understanding of jokes, banter and traditions when you have also learnt the accompanying language. Many aspects of a culture simply do not translate – learning the language is key to unlocking the culture. You will begin to notice that the language shapes the culture, and in turn, the culture shapes the language. Understanding culture, whether it be your own or a new one, will richly influence and benefit your life.

3) Improve your intelligence and brain health

Studies from York University have demonstrated that speaking more than one language can greatly improve attention span, memory, and self-control. Learning another language will also improve your command of the English language, as you will gain a deeper understanding of sentence structures, grammar, verbs and tenses. Learning another language will quite literally make you more intelligent! Scientists have also made some fascinating discoveries regarding the onset of dementia and the ability to converse in more than one language. Research suggests that speaking two languages could delay the onset of dementia by five years; speaking three languages delayed it by close to seven years, and speaking four or more language delayed it by up to nine years.

 4) Make new friends

 When you can speak to someone in their own language you communicate more effectively. Better communication is a great way to forge lasting friendships and a great way to expand your social circle. Speaking a second language opens up endless friendship opportunities: you could be invited to more events, parties, outings, trips, and adventures as your pool of potential friends will expand! On campus, there are many societies and clubs for conversing in a foreign language so you will be able to practice your language skills as often as you please with your new friends.

 5) Land your dream career

 Learning another language can really set you aside in the highly competitive job market. Being fluent in a second language and understanding the culture can provide the required edge to help you land the position of your dreams. If there are 3 equally qualified candidates applying for a role at Mercedes Benz, one of whom studied German at University and spent a semester on exchange, it is easy to see who would be the preferred candidate. The German speaker will be able to communicate to colleagues in Germany; they will be able to liaise with clients and business partners; they will be able to produce presentations for the upcoming meeting, and they won’t need to rely on the frequently incorrect Google Translate to get things done. Learning a language can help you secure the job you desire and help you to get ahead at work.

 6) Appreciate music and art in their native forms

 Imagine being able to enjoy the music of artists such as Enrique Iglesias, Taeyeon, Luciano Pavarotti or Edith Piaf and as it was intended to be heard in their native language. A whole world of music, art, film and literature opens up to you once you have another language under your belt. Reading, watching and listening to content in its original form fosters deeper understanding and heightened enjoyment. Sydney is the host to a large number of foreign film festivals including Iranian, Japanese, French, German, Latin American, Persian, Argentine and Mexican. Understanding another language and being able to ignore the subtitles is a wonderful experience and will help you to engage with the film on another level.

 7) Speak in code

 This is one of our favourites. Speaking another language equals having a secret code with your family or friends. Being able to communicate to select people without others understanding is a very useful tool and can help you to negotiate a better price, escape awkward situations, make private plans, or speak about someone without them knowing (although this can be quite rude!). Having the ability to speak in a secret code is also a sure-fire way to impress your friends and family.

 8) Study abroad

 When you study a language here at the University of Sydney you will have the opportunity to study abroad on exchange. After working hard during her first year of study, our student Natalie has decided to go on exchange to a University in Paris, France. Natalie plans to complete one semester immersed in Parisian life and culture, speaking French to the locals, and learning about life in France as an insider. On return to Australia, Natalie will have an enormous advantage over her peers. The chance to be exposed to the people, art, culture, architecture, cuisine, and language of France will be an experience she will never forget.

 9) Become more confident

 Becoming proficient in a new language does wonders for your confidence and self-esteem. Being able to express yourself in more ways is a wonderful feeling and learning another language can help you set aside anxieties and shyness. You may be the only one of your friends to speak the local language while backpacking across Europe, Asia, or South America. You will be the one needing to make the plans, have the conversations, do the negotiating, and handle any situations that arise. Your confidence and self-esteem will soar as your friends rely on your language skills and you will be left with a sense of self-satisfaction and an appreciation of your talents.

 10) Become more independent

 Speaking another language helps you to become more independent and mature. Whether studying or travelling abroad, you will be forced to communicate with the locals in a wide variety of situations such as buying food and drinks, making travel plans, making new friends, dealing with businesses to buy a phone sim card, or speaking with a landlord to rent an apartment. You will learn to look after yourself in a foreign environment, which is an extremely valuable skill. Whether you are in Barcelona, Jerusalem, Tokyo or Athens, you will be pushed out of your comfort zone and will learn just how resilient and independent you can be.