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The 7 Unexpected Benefits of Learning Another Language

The 7 Unexpected Benefits of Learning Another Language
Everyone knows about the obvious benefits of learning a language, and when you consider how much time and dedication it takes, you may end up wondering how those few benefits are worth all of the work. The truth is that learning another language has repayments that are well beyond those obvious few. Fortunately, researchers have been studying some rather unique benefits, and there are some that definitely make it worth the effort.

Like many other lessons, there are multiple layers to what you get from learning to speak in another language. Many of those paybacks are social, but some of them are a lot more personal. 

If you are struggling to learn another language and need some additional motivation, here are seven more reasons why you should keep going with your studies.

Reduced Stress and a More Positive Outlook

When you first started learning the language, you felt a certain something about what you were learning, and it gave you an entirely different outlook on your daily routine. This is because other languages express cultures entirely different to your own.

The end result is that people who speak more than one language tend to be more relaxed and are easier to talk to than those who are monolingual. Studies focused on children, and a study conducted in 2010 found that children who spoke multiple languages had better self-esteem, were less anxious, and were generally happier and less lonely. This went for their interaction both with other kids as well as adults.

While they were not able to pinpoint an exact reason, it is believed that children were better able to empathize and understand the perspectives of others. With a wider emotional range and perspective, they were able to better socialize and help those around them.

A Change in Perspective and How You See Others

The Internet is full of examples of animals being adopted by other species. When you learn another language, there is a similar effect on how you see other people.

Another study on children explored how children would adapt when they were adopted by a family who spoke Italian. The children were native English speakers. In the end, the children tended to learn Italian, adapting their language to their situation instead of clinging to their native tongue.

The study showed that children were better able to adapt given a change in situation. It also had an effect on their outlook. The monolingual children tended to have a much more rigid idea of how people who were different to them should be. The children who spoke more than one language were more likely to believe that people adapted to their situation instead of being easily defined by a single aspect of their lives.

A New Layer of Self

Based on the findings from a study in 2008, learning another language creates a slightly different personality. The language that you choose to speak in different situations tends to show off a slightly different personality than you use when speaking in your native tongue.

This study was on adults. Interestingly, bilingual women who knew Spanish and English tended to be more assertive and confident when speaking Spanish.

The scientists have not finished studying why that occurred, but there are several theories. The primary theory is the culture behind each of the languages. Women tend to be much more assertive and confident in Spanish speaking societies than in those that speak English.

Improved Nonverbal Communication

Perhaps the most surprising benefit is that the more you know how to say in other languages, the less you actually need to say because your nonverbal skills become considerably better.

Based on the findings of a study published in 2015, nonverbal skills are significantly improved in children who know more than one language. Children who were multilingual were more effective communicators, both when speaking and interacting. Surprisingly, if a child was frequently exposed to other languages, even if they didn’t speak the other language, they had better communication skills than monolingual children who did not have the exposure. Both multilingual children and those with other language exposure were more easily able to understand what people were trying to communicate.

This is in large part because when learning a second language, you end up relying on nonverbal communication to get the idea of what people are saying.

Nor is communication limited to body language. Another 2015 study found that multilinguals were better able to get their point across online as well, even though it can be difficult to get tone across. Multilinguals have a better connection to word connotations and are better able to choose words that communicate what they mean. They are also better able to pick up on what others are trying to say online. They are more likely to use emoticons too, because facial expressions are largely universal. Multilinguals know when words simply fail and when nonverbal cues provide a better expression of emotion.

A New World Perspective

This payback comes as no surprise because it is nearly impossible not to learn something so different from what you knew and stay the same. For example, if you ask about the color of the sky in English, you will get a generic color, such as blue. If you ask a Japanese speaker, you are going to get a lot more descriptive color because they distinguish shades with the color names. Instead of blue, you will be told something more along the lines of light or dark blue.

A study from 2011 found that there was more to it than that. Japanese speakers actually saw the different types of blues as different colors. Study participants who spoke only Japanese were more likely to make a strong distinction between them. English speakers were much more likely to simply see blue. People who spoke both languages tended to fall somewhere between then, usually based on the language they used most often.

Learning another language means you will be exposed to entirely different ways of seeing the world.

A More Rational Creature

This benefit has a serious ripple effect in most areas of your life. For example, it was found that people who spoke more than one language were better at making financial decisions when thinking in a language other than their native one. A big part of that is because the other language forces you to step back, detaching your emotions from the equations. As a result, your decisions are more rational and you focus on the facts instead of your feelings.

The Natural High

This repayment has more to do with the process than the results, but there is something about learning another language that simply makes people feel good. It’s kind of like chocolate. Scientists have studied people’s brains when they are working on another language, and they have seen that the pleasure center is frequently activated during these sessions.

They are still looking into the specifics, but it is quite clear that there is a natural high to be had as you learn a language outside of your mother tongue.