University of Cambridge

The Importance of Learning a Second Language

     Learning a second language can be difficult: it takes much time, patience and practicing. Knowing a second language can create a better understanding of different cultures, open job opportunities; help with academic success, make traveling easier, and help people communicate throughout the world. A foreign language can take the learner out of the comfort zone and allow them to experience different cultures; also it has been reported that learning a second language gives the brain more stimulation (BBC News, 2004).  

     In the United States only 30 states have said that English is the official language (Wikipedia, 2007). In Miami, Florida residents who do not speak Spanish have difficulty interacting with the large population of Latin Americans; making conducting business harder for business owners. The Associated Press reported in 2008 that 58.5% of the population speaks Spanish as their primary language in Miami, Florida. If any one wanted to take a vacation to Miami it would be wise to have knowledge of the Spanish language. Learning any second language can help people travel better. Allowing the traveler to interact with the locals and enjoy their time, instead of becoming frustrated because they have no way to ask questions, ask for directions, and especially dining. Not only is learning a second language better for traveling, but also for the mind.

     BBC News (2004) reported that the University of London conducted a study in which 105 students, 80 of which was bilingual; the study reflects that the bilingual students had more of a “brain boost”. There was more evidence of advanced learning and stimulation of the brain. These scientists believe that language learning helps improve the brain power and creates advancements in learning. One study said that learning a second language can help delay dementia (Hyltenstam & Viberg, 1993).  . By learning a second language it is possible to keep the brain functioning better longer. A Second language can also provide the learner or speaker with many different job opportunities.

     All around the world there are jobs that need foreign language speakers. Interpreters for the Armed Forces and other government agencies are good professions that require speaking a second language. These jobs come with benefits, good pay, and the chance to travel around the world. A foreign language speaker has broader choices when it comes to career paths. Even if the speaker is looking for a job in Human Services, they will be very helpful in communities or countries where English is not the primary language. Speaking a foreign language will help expand peoples’ outlook on the world, and help disprove cultural misconceptions.

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      Music in a second language is a form of art, knowing the language helps better appreciate the music. The academic study of foreign language is also considered an art. Learning a foreign language will allow students to participate in new studies, do good research, and will not limit the learner by only English language research. Foreign Language Studies start early now, in most high schools around the United States it is required that students participate in a Foreign Language class (this does not mean four years of foreign language). If all colleges and universities made a language study required it would not only benefit the student but also the university. Having diversity in studies makes the university more interesting and shows the university, promotes cultural awareness. One poll conducted by Scripps Howard News Service and the Ohio University said that 14% of the adult American population has taken four years of foreign language courses, and only 17% of people with a college degree did not take any foreign language studies. This poll shows a larger population of college graduates has taken a foreign language course (Hargrove, T., & G.H. Stempel III, 2007).

     Learning a foreign language may be difficult but with time and practice a student can become very efficient. Mastering the skill is the hardest part, using it is easy. Not too many Americans speak a foreign language fluently because they just do not have the time to learn. They fail to realize that they can truly benefit from speaking a second language. First it stimulates the brain; then can open up job opportunities, and help in academic success. Most importantly the learner becomes aware of the different cultures around us everyday. Our country is a melting pot; it is very important to be aware of the cultural differences around us.

References

Hargrove, T., & H. Stempel III, G. (2007, Summer). Americans wistful of foreign language in highschools. Scripps Howard News Services. Abstract retrieved October 21, 2008, from http://newspolls.org/story.php?story_id=65

Hyltenstam, K., & Viberg, A. (1993). Introduction. In K. Hyltenstam & A. Viberg, Progression and Regression in Languages (pp. 1-3). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved October 23, 2008, from http://books.google.com/books?id=D5vMWphwQr8C&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_summary_r&cad=0

In Miami, Spanish becoming Primary Language. (2008, May 29). The Associated Press. Abstract retrieved October 23, 2008, from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24871558/

Languages of the United States. (2007). wikipedia. Retrieved October 23, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_the_United_States

Learning languages “boosts brain”. (2004). BBC News. Retrieved October 24, 2008, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3739690.stm

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