Many of us wish we could speak more than one language and the British (or any nation with English as the native language) are notoriously poor at attempting to learn other languages. We have the fantastic luxury of being understood worldwide. Our European neighbours predominantly speak fluent English, as do most tourist destinations in countries such as Thailand, Mexico and Tunisia. The importance of languages is lost upon us. It is never pushed as important life skill when you are young.
I am going to argue that learning a language should take more precedent in education and personal development. Let me begin by stating that I do not currently speak another language (despite currently attempting to learn Spanish, lessons are expensive though!), nor do I blame anyone who only speaks one. The education system puts no real pressure on people to learn an additional language and you can lead happy and extremely successful lives speaking only one. However, the benefits to speaking an additional language extend beyond the monetary.
I will start with what is likely to be many people’s motivation to speak another language: Career opportunities. There is a clear correlation between speaking additional languages and career opportunities. It opens pathways to jobs that require multiple languages and this is a niche market and constantly in short-supply, therefore making it a lucrative career path. It also provides the opportunity to live and work in other countries. It would be extremely difficult to work in France without the ability to speak French and if you could do this, then it would open up a job market of 30 million people. This is a vast number of new avenues to take your career, especially off the back of post-Brexit concerns.
There are also the personal benefits to bilingualism. It has been shown that learning a second language can improve cognitive thought. It allows your brain to work more efficiently and scientists claim that this means you can more easily prioritise and analyse situations as information comes in. This is an essential life skill, not only for a language but to help improve your personal productivity. Every percentage point counts. This increased efficiency has also been linked to strengthening the brain against degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia. I will take that as a major plus!
Finally, I feel that learning a language is something that helps to broaden your mind and truly immerse yourself in different cultures. It also shows a respect and admiration for other cultures as opposed to expecting them to understand English. The office here at Farrell Associates has members of the team who speak additional languages and I have found this a greatly motivating factor. I regret my lack of interest during my childhood and I will eventually achieve fluency in Spanish. I hope that I may have influenced just one person to consider learning a language.
Toby Swann, Associate – IT and Software Engineering