The benefits of learning a second language

How many of you speak a second language? How many of you are completely bilingual? Perhaps some of you readers speak three or more languages.

I loved learning languages as a child, French was the most natural for me as we spent a significant amount of time there whilst I was growing up and that continued to be the most important one to learn as my family emigrated to France when I was at university.

At university I learnt basic Spanish and basic Japanese as additional subjects. I really enjoyed this and it was a nice break from the essay writing that I spent most of my time on. I spent some time in Japan trying to improve my knowledge of the language (among other things) you can read more about that here.

My younger brother is bilingual French and English as he was only 11 years old when he moved there. As much as it was never my desire to live in France, I am envious of his language skills, he sounds amazing when he speaks French.

My children currently learn Welsh at primary school, which is wonderful as they are open very early on to other languages. Welsh is used in playgroups and nurseries as well which I think is wonderful and really enhances the learning experience.

According to a range of studies there are multiple benefits to learning a second language:

  • Improves your English
  • Improves your memory
  • Helps to keep dementia at bay
  • Improves your decision-making skills

I would also add:

  • Extends your appreciation for other cultures and countries
  • Makes you attractive to employers looking for linguists
  • Improves your experience of visiting a country where that language is spoken
  • Broadens your understanding of the world
  • Can be lots of fun

Learning as a child is obviously the preferred approach as it becomes second nature to speak in both languages, but this isn’t always possible so I always think we should remain open to learning something new.

Night school as an adult is always an option to consider and that was how my parents both initially learnt to speak French, but there are plenty of self-help tools out there that you can also use to get you started.

I’ve been using this audio CD by Lonely Planet to brush up on my Japanese recently. It is only £7.99 and I can have it on in the car which works brilliantly.  It means it doesn’t take up any other time and I love a good multitasking aid.


Do you speak any additional languages or if not would you like to learn?


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