The Student's Case for Learning A Language

If you’re an English-speaking person in the Anglosphere, there’s a good chance that you’ve never found your language skills wanting when talking to somebody. Granted, ordering a coffee in Berlin or Barcelona might have been awkward that one time but the UK, USA, New Zealand and Australia are so monolingual that there’s a good chance that everybody you meet will speak English – and only English.

The Background

Of course, this monolingualism is true of many other countries but the wide use of English in media, on the internet, and in business dealings has created a false perception of the language as an omega point - once you’ve mastered it, there’s no reason to branch out into other languages like French or Spanish. To put that statement into perspective, only 38% of people from England are bilingual or trilingual.

The British Council minced no words when it pointed out that Britons are the “worst” at learning languages, largely due to the fact that our neighbours in the European Union usually have at least one other language in their repertoire. The same source added that most young people in Britain who pick up a second language have usually dropped it within three years. The reasons why can be numerous.

However, the many benefits associated with bilingualism are a compelling reason to start learning again. Research suggests that speaking more than one's native language correlates with faster career progression, increased earning potential, and greater initial opportunities. According to the Guardian, you’d also be helping stave off upwards of £48bn in annual losses caused by British monolingualism.

Where to Start

One of the most difficult steps associated with learning a language is choosing which one. Mandarin Chinese is increasingly important but difficult to comprehend for a beginner, for instance, while German is much easier but not as widely used. Spanish offers a middle ground between these two extremes, though, which is why it’s easy to recommend to new learners.

In a recent article entitled How Many Countries Speak Spanish?, the learning company Lingopie noted that 534m people and 21 countries around the world use the language regularly, either as a de-facto means of communication or a secondary one. These countries, which include Argentina, Ecuador, and Colombia, as well as Spain and Mexico, are also accompanied by emerging economies like Costa Rica and Cuba.

Spain is the UK’s tenth largest trading partner, providing us with cars, fruit, medicine, and clothing in exchange for ships, oil, and even more cars, among other things. Of course, somebody has to negotiate all those agreements, both at a government level and for sole traders who need foreign supplies. This type of diplomacy has ancient roots yet a decline in language uptake could be ominous for the import/export industry.

Linguists claim all sorts of incidental benefits from bilingualism, including increased empathy and compassion. Learning a language almost invariably produces a net positive, especially for students aiming at a career in multinational business in the future.