Students often don’t see the relevance of learning a foreign language, or they overlook this option when choosing subjects because they think it will be too difficult. While learning a language can be challenging it is also immensely rewarding with many advantages.
One obvious benefit is in the area of career as there is a big demand for people with bilingual qualifications in the government, private and non-profit sectors.
Studying another language can also help students stand out when applying for university courses through alternative pathways to ATAR as this demonstrates academic rigor, commitment and curiosity.
Here are some less obvious but important benefits of studying another language:
Multiple studies have found that learning another language enhances problem solving skills, memory and concentration. Students who study a foreign language are better at multitasking, score higher on standardised tests and have denser grey matter in the part of the brain involved in executive function.
The skills gained through studying languages are used in all subjects and can improve overall academic performance. The reason languages are so effective at boosting brain power is because of the mental agility needed to translate, make connections and memorise rules and structures.
This is the equivalent of doing a mental workout, and it explains why learning a language can help ward of Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly. Babies also benefit from being exposed to different languages, and experts claim that the earlier this happens the better for mental development.
Students who study the structure and rules of another language gain a much better understanding of how their own language works. Rather than being immersed in it, they are able to step outside and view their native language in a different way. This has been found to improve literacy skills, with students performing better in reading, comprehension and grammar tests.
Unlike most other subjects, language study requires continuous verbal practice and assessments. The experience of speaking frequently equips students with the confidence to communicate clearly and fluently in their native language.
It’s not surprising that those who study a foreign language perform better in higher education. Their improved problem solving and literacy skills, combined with the discipline and effort required to master another language, lay the foundations for academic success in later years.
Once students have learned one language, it becomes easier to learn another one, opening up a world of opportunities.
Studying a foreign language gives students insights into other cultures which can expand their worldview and foster empathy. Those who can speak another language are more likely to travel and work overseas. Having the ability to communicate directly with people in another country is a powerful and authentic experience.
The benefits of studying another language are quite simply amazing!