7 Reasons to Learn a Foreign Language

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I think it's beyond wise for people to have an extra language in their hip pocket - available for immediate use if necessary.

For example, I was encouraged to learn German many years ago - a relatively hard language to master - but I'm glad I did, because I've used it in some interesting situations over the years. I have a small vocabulary, and very thick American accent when speaking the language, but I can hold a conversation if hard pressed.

If you're interested, here are 7 instances in which an ability to wield another tongue can be useful:

1 "Learn" German (Deutsch, not Dutch). English and German were literally the same language a thousand years ago. All you have to do to learn to speak and understand German is to imagine the previous sentence - fly to Germany - sit down in a Bier tent - and after a few very strong albeit tasty beers (you were forewarned) - join the discussion.

OK. Maybe it's not that easy, but that's how I learned most of my German language skills - coupled with a small amount of basic formal instruction in the 80s. A smattering of German spoken and understood will get you far in a number of places around the globe, to include in tourist areas, Germantowns, and around military bases within the United States (German spouses, aye).

2 Or maybe learn Español. Visit the Caribbean or some other cool locale and fit right in. I've noticed often that if I had spoke Spanish (which I am learning) during visits to, um, Spanish-speaking countries - I could have experienced much better customer service on certain occasions.

3 Impress people at parties. You can pull a William Wallace (Braveheart) at a party while participating in a foreign language conversation. This is so impressive that when men do it, women have a tendency to swoon. Alternately, when women do it, men go gaga because men like women with accents.

4 Have your own 13th Warrior moment. This actually works:

  • "Sit around a campfire" after having heard a foreign language spoken to you over a period of time - especially while trying to communicate (while trying to listen in, like Antonio Banderas did at the campfire scene in the movie).
  • Suddenly, the foreign language becomes intelligible and presto! - and you can understand your quasi-captors' every word.

I had this happen to me at some point in time during the 80s while stationed in Germany - although in much slower motion than in the movie - and it was most likely also because (as noted above) English and German have many words that are essentially the same (plus, a lot of Latin words that are exactly the same, just pronounced differently).

The same thing happened once again with the Dutch language in the 1990s: I was in a Danube cruise ship restaurant in Budapest and my Hungarian tour guide, very nice lady that she is (she speaks Dutch and a bunch of other European languages) - related to me that when the Dutch language is spoken, it sounds like drunken English sailor trying to speak German. There were Hollanders in the restaurant speaking Dutch, and as soon as she told me that - I could understand their words.

If you've ever heard Dutch spoken, you'll scratch your head, because it is a very different language. My 13th Warrior moment in the bar could have also been a product of the restaurant atmosphere - or the fact that the three languages - English, German, and Dutch - are all Germanic languages.

(I had another 13th Warrior moment recently while re-watching the movie for the umpteenth time, as I could actually understand the "Norsemen" as they spoke Norse - which is yet another North Germanic language.)

5 Put it on your resume. The U.S. military actually pays cash (extra money in the old paycheck) to people who speak two or more languages. Regardless, the ability to speak second and third languages looks good on your resume and can assist if you are looking for international employment.

6 Set the example. I know a few people who had the foresight to raise their children while speaking two mother tongues - which means the kids can later easily blend into a number of very different societies.

7 Horizon expander. If the world ever ends, you can go to a foreign country and, um, hide - if you have a smattering of one or two foreign languages.

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Habla español? 10 comments

wba108@yahoo.com profile image

wba108@yahoo.com 4 years ago from upstate, NY

Learning a foreign language does open alot of doors and sounds like alot of fun. All you have to do today is listen by tape or Ipod to learn a foreign language, its not that hard if you have the motivation!


wba108@yahoo.com profile image

wba108@yahoo.com 4 years ago from upstate, NY

Learning a new language does open doors and it sounds fun now that you can just listen to the language spoken on your car CD player or I-pod.


Maggie.L profile image

Maggie.L 5 years ago from UK

I agree with you that a second language (or more) can come in very handy and widen your opportunities. My father's native tongue was Cantonese and he always spoke to my siblings and I in English. Needless to say, we were resentful for a long time over that. However, at the end of the day you can still learn as an adult if your are motivated enough.


htodd profile image

htodd 5 years ago from United States

Thanks for the Great article!


Adventure Colorad profile image

Adventure Colorad 5 years ago from Denver,CO

Excellent Hub, I studied German in college and that went a long way toward learning the grammar and understanding the how and why of the language, but my trip to Germany really helped me to grasp the language. There is nothing like interacting with native speakers to learn a language.


sean kinn profile image

sean kinn 5 years ago from Key West and Budapest Author

Billrrrr, you da man, that's my point exactly. The effort doesn't work everywhere on the planet, but it definitely works in some places. And the added benefits of learning a second or third language are huge, ranging from acquired friendship, to enlightened communication (I guarantee someone from China has had at least *one* conversation with a European in a language other than English ... oh wait, my neighbors in Germany a few years ago were Chinese), to expanded brain power. Thanks for the comment. :-) SK


Billrrrr profile image

Billrrrr 5 years ago from Cape Cod

You are soooo right!! A few years ago I went to Mexico with a rudimentary grasp of Spanish. Everywhere I went, I informed the people that I loved their language and was trying to learn it. I asked them to speak to me only in Spanish, even if they also spoke English. I was treatede like a brother by all. In one restaurant, the owner said that I could only pay for a cup of coffee. At first I thought he meant that I could only have coffee and no food. "No Senor, you can have anything on the menu but you will only pay for the cafe", he told me. Every single person I met was wonderful. Even the bandidos in a bad part of town, did not bother me, when my friends informed them that I was a good Gringo and amigo to all. (With the recent drug wars in Juarez and many other cities, I might not feel quite as safe now..but I still feel that the Mexican people are among the very best in the world.)


sean kinn profile image

sean kinn 5 years ago from Key West and Budapest Author

There. Fixed it. Should read better now.


sean kinn profile image

sean kinn 5 years ago from Key West and Budapest Author

I agree. But I see it as a separate issue, because I don't agree with foreign countries trying to take over the United States by not assimilating (raising foreign flags on our territory, trying to force their religion or "laws" on us). I just think it's wise for people to pick up a second or third language for various reasons. :-) (Maybe I should reword the Hub a bit, aye?)


The Frog Prince profile image

The Frog Prince 5 years ago from Arlington, TX

Good article though it won't smooth my ruffled feathers any time I hear "Press 1 for English" in my own country. LMAO

The Frog Prince

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