Many people choose to learn a foreign language as a means of self-improvement. What are the benefits of learning a language other than one’s native language(s)? Multiple benefits have been observed, including the following.

1. Become more self-actualized.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, one learns more about one’s self by studying an unfamiliar language and the culture that it comes from. This type of study virtually forces one to examine one’s own culture and one’s beliefs about other cultures. Ultimately, language learning leads to deeper understanding of one’s self and, potentially, personal growth.

2. Boost brain power.

In order for the brain to learn a new language, it has to learn a new language structure and recognize how to apply the new rules. This increases the negotiating, problem-solving, and reading skills in the brain.

3. Build self-confidence.

Learning a new language demonstrates mastery of one skill. That one skill leads to all the other benefits on this list, further demonstrating to one’s self that one is capable of adding new skills to one’s skill set. It may give one the confidence to try learning other new skills.

4. Decrease the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Number of languages spoken” has been shown to be one of the most important factors in determining when degenerative diseases will begin to affect people who are at the most risk for them. For those who speak multiple languages, the average age of onset is 75 years, compared to those who speak only one language, whose average age of onset is 71 years.

5. Expand your careers options.

Some languages have direct benefits to one’s chosen career path; interpreters, for example, must be fluent in at least two languages. What’s less obvious is that foreign language learning, regardless of what the language is, demonstrates one’s flexibility, intelligence, and openness to diverse cultures to a potential employer.

6. Improve decision-making skills.

Decision-making skills are required for determining when idiomatic expressions apply in the new language and when to take words and phrases at their literal value. This sharpens one’s ability to reason and decide in general.

7. Improve memory.

The ability to learn a new vocabulary is correlated with better memory overall. Learning the rules of a new language structure makes the brain work harder, increasing its overall capacity to remember.

8. Improve performance in other academic areas.

Immersion in a new language has been shown to increase performance on test questions in vocabulary, reading comprehension, and math. Those who want to do well on standardized tests like the ACT can actually help themselves prepare by, for example, watching television with Spanish captioning services if one is studying Spanish.

9. Increase critical-thinking skills.

A research study conducted in Spain looked at people who were monolingual vs. people who were multilingual. The multilingual group was consistently better at spotting information that was irrelevant or deceptive. Being multilingual is thought to be linked with being more perceptive.

10. Increase openness to other cultures.

Understanding a new language is difficult without understanding its cultural context. By learning a new language, one typically exposes one’s self to thinking from the viewpoint of the culture from which the language originates.

11. Sharpen multitasking skills.

Slipping back and forth between one language and another forces the brain and tongue to multi-task. This ability transfers over to other kinds of multi-tasking as well. People who make few errors using a newly-acquired language tend to make few errors when working on complex tasks that don’t necessarily have to do with language learning.

12. Speak your first language(s) better.

It’s almost impossible to learn a new language without thinking seriously about how the new language compares in structure and rules to one’s native language(s). This may be the first time one has given thought to certain aspects of a native language, broadening and deepening understanding of the native language.

Author's Bio: 

Carol Evenson is a business coach and consultant with a passion for self-improvement. She shares tips and hopes that you can learn from her experiences!