The Importance of Language Education to Cultural Exposure

Are you trying to learn another language?

Whether you’re studying Mandarin in college, learning French for an international trip or taking up German as a hobby, becoming fluent in another tongue may seem more challenging than you expected.

In the United States, most students aren’t offered foreign language education until they reach high school. Because language learning is easier at a younger age, teenagers and adults often have a hard time mastering a second language at first — but that doesn’t mean you should give up. In fact, learning another language can be one of the most valuable experiences of your life, both for your brain function and your cultural understanding.

Here’s why language education is crucial to broadening your worldview and overall perspective:

Strengthens Your Brain

Learning a new language stretches your capabilities to new heights, challenging your brain every time you use it. Studies have shown that language education helps to improve cognitive development, creativity and divergent thinking.

One study linked being bilingual or polyglottal with improved higher math skills, while another found that students who study a foreign language do better on standardized tests. The longer they studied the new language, the better these students’ test scores became.


Opens a World of Doors

In some fields, foreign language fluency makes you more appealing to your employers. Demand for bilingual workers has doubled in the last five years and is expected to continue to climb in the coming decades. Many companies are specifically looking for applicants that can speak Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic, among others. Learning a new language opens a world of doors when it comes to job applications and career opportunities.

Foreign language also opens doors for students who might be looking to study abroad. Learning the language of your host family can help you make connections, teach you to communicate and provide you with enriched cultural insight. If you’re planning on heading overseas for school or work studies, make it a point to learn the fundamentals of the local language.

Provides a New Perspective

In the 2016 movie Arrival, Amy Adams’ character talks about the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which claims that the structure of a language affects the speaker’s worldview. Essentially, the language you speak changes the way you perceive experiences, life and other people.

Also known as linguistic relativity, this hypothesis shows that the languages you learn change the way you see the world — which means learning a new language can expose you to a cultural worldview you might not have otherwise experienced.

Makes You More Logical

Human beings are emotional creatures, which can sometimes make it difficult for us to come to purely logical decisions. Learning a language can help with that. Studies show that when you’re multilingual, thinking in your secondary language can enhance your ability to make logical decisions by improving your analytical abilities.

This outcome increases when you learn the second language later in life — because the language doesn’t come naturally and you need to consciously choose the right words, your brain doesn’t have the time or processing power to be emotional. This is just another unique way language learning develops your brain and cultural understanding.

Start Learning Today

As an adult, learning a second language may be more difficult than it would be as a child, but it’s still possible. Whether you’re studying abroad, seeking a new career, or just looking for a way to train your brain, start practicing and learning a new language today.

Language learning tools are everywhere — from the internet to phone apps to online or local classes. Learning a new language will do more than challenge your cognitive abilities — it will enrich your cultural experiences and evolve your view of the world itself.

Alyssa Abel is an education blogger with a special interest in study abroad, language learning and cultural education. Read more of her work for students and educators on her blog, Syllabusy, connect with her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.