When I was little, my parents sat me down and explained to me that they wanted me to learn a second language. At the time, I remember 6 year old me kind of rolling my eyes because if I knew English, what was the point? I told myself that I already knew how to read, talk and get my point across (pretty passionately at that, if we’re honest). As a 1st grader, I was unable to see the value that a second language would provide throughout my life.
However, parents usually win, so I started to learn Spanish that year, and found that I actually loved it. Don’t get me wrong, at first it was hard. It can be unnatural, and requires time and commitment. But since my parents encouraged me to learn a second language so young, it became natural to me. I ended up becoming so passionate about languages, that I even added a third: Latin. Once elementary school Madeline turned into high school Madeline, the appreciation grew even further.
Not only does knowing a second language enhance one’s listening skills and memory, but it also improves the knowledge of one’s own language. Everyone tells you that you’re more likely to be hired for jobs if you know a second language, but I’d argue that the cultural awareness that comes with knowing a second language is even more valuable.
It can be hard to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, but by choosing to learn a second language you choose to do just that. Not only do you begin to learn words outside of your native tongue, but you also begin to learn and understand a culture not native to you.
It is arrogant to assume that we can live our lives, and travel all parts of the world, expecting people to know our native tongue where we go. Part of knowing other languages is meeting other cultures and people groups in the middle. The ability to communicate through dignifies and provides respect, which is vital to appreciating all humans on this earth.
Language impacts the daily lives of people across the earth, regardless of gender, race, background, social class, or age. Most studies show that over 40% of the world is bilingual, showing the importance that most other countries place on knowing multiple languages. The West is not excluded from this, even though often English-speaking countries tend to think that they are.
Charlemagne once said: “To have another language is to possess a second soul.” Think of the skills and talents you already possess. By adding the technical skill of another language, you multiply your impact across the world, and beyond that, open yourself up to knowing the hearts and minds of others different than you. We are called to understand the souls of others, especially as Christians, so how are we to do this if we cannot communicate with people outside of our own culture?
It’s never too late to learn another language, so I’d encourage anyone to consider learning another language. Not only does it provide vital opportunities in career and academia, but it also skyrockets one’s growth and understanding as a person in the scheme of a global world.