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The limits of my language are the limits of my world.
Australia prides itself on being an open-minded and ethnically diverse country. Australians are avid travellers thanks to a sense of adventure and a strong currency. More young people are going to university than ever before. Despite this, the 2011 census reported that approximately 77% of households speak only English at home.
We are more internationally mobile, more educated and more open-minded than ever before yet so few of us speak more than one language. So why is language learning so low on the list of priorities for young people? Part of it may be our education system, with languages being neither compulsory or encouraged after a certain age.
The other part of it is that we lack motivation. Here in Western Australia where the nearest capital city is a six hour flight away, it is hard to feel connected to the outside world. Taking these factors into mind I decided to bite the bullet, muster up my courage and dedicate my summer holidays to learning Spanish.
In order to motivate myself (because no one wants to study over summer) and maybe inspire others, I drew up a list of five reasons why learning a foreign language is worthwhile:
Nobody wants to be that tourist
We all cringe on the inside when we encounter that tourist. He (or she) is (usually) from an Anglophone country and decides that learning a few words of the local language is a triviality not to be bothered with. Instead, all their interactions with the locals are conducted in a very, very slow and very, very loud voice.
While it is indeed true that most places speak English, a lot of places don’t. Nor should they have to. Knowing a few words in the local language will show respect and courtesy and will make sure you will be treated far better than someone who SPEAKS LIKE THIS.
Hello job prospects!
We live in an increasingly globalised world. Opportunities are bountiful and markets are more competitive than ever. More qualifications means better prospects, more upward mobility and more money. Considering just how many companies now have international partners, having two or three languages will make you significantly more attractive to potential employers. Simple as that.
It will make you a better person
This works in two ways. You will be surprised just how much stuff doesn’t get translated into English. Language learning means the discovery of a new culture and exposure to new music, film and literature that you might otherwise not have encountered.
Secondly, it will make you more open minded. As Mark Twain once said, “travel is fatal to prejudice”. The same thinking applies here. Learning a new language means you are exposed to new cultures, new modes of thinking and new people making you not only more knowledgeable but also more tolerant.
It is fun and rewarding
I’ve had friends spend three or four months in a different country and come back fluent in a different language. For the rest of the 98% of us who actually need to sit down and study, the whole process can sometimes be disheartening.
At the heart of it through, it can be a whole lot of fun. Adult language classes are highly entertaining and a great place to make friends. Furthermore, being able to have even a simple conversation fills you with a sense of accomplishment – as does a compliment from a native speaker.
There is a reason why Eat, Pray, Love was a success
So while I only watched the movie of the book (under great duress, I assure you), I can completely understand why it was the success that it was. Lush locations, delicious food… and really attractive foreigners.
I’m not suggesting that learning Spanish will increase the chance of you being proposed to by Javier Bardem. Nonetheless, it will allow you to meet a wider variety of people and potentially increase your pool of “potentials”. Who might look like a certain Spanish actor. In this day and age, anything is possible!