Learning a second language was one of the best decisions that I have ever made, and I think this upcoming year, you should learn one too! You might be thinking, “I get by just fine with English, why should I learn another language” or “I will never be fluent, so what’s the point?”. Learning a new language can be an intimidating, frustrating experience; however, it opens your mind up to a whole new way of thinking.
I have taken language classes since the beginning of high school. I have seven years experience speaking Spanish, and this year I picked up German.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
- You can use your second language almost anywhere! I have been to several countries where the national language is not English or Spanish; however, I was able to use both languages to get around. When I was in Florence, I ran into a language barrier with the night staff at the hotel where I was staying at. The staff spoke to me in Italian and was trying to communicate that they did not speak English. Although I did not know Italian, I thought I could use some Spanish to try to communicate my message because both languages are Latin-based. To my surprise, the staff understood me well enough to get me into my room.
- You feel more connected to the world around you! Once I started getting a grip on Spanish, it felt like I started to see it everywhere. I live in small town Wisconsin, but I was still seeing Spanish in stores and, of course, online. I also noticed that occasionally, I would be out and about and would hear people speaking Spanish. This was something I didn’t really notice before because I was not familiar with the language at the time. I’ve even used my Spanish with people while I shopping and working in small town Wisconsin, which just goes to show that you can use other languages ANYWHERE.
- Your life becomes so much easier while traveling! You don’t have to be traveling to a country where the national language is the language you are learning to be able to get some practice in. Besides Spain and Mexico, I have used my Spanish in Hungary and Italy. Traveling to Italy was super cool because I was able to read menus and some museum signs in Italian. Although I could not directly translate what I was reading, it was similar enough to Spanish, so I was able to understand the message.
- You can add it to your resume! Being able to speak another language is an extremely valuable skill to have, especially in today’s world. Learning another language could be the distinguishing trait that sets you apart from other applicants.
- You can learn additional languages with ease! After visiting Germany, I decided that I wanted to learn German. At first, I was very intimidated. I was comfortable taking advanced Spanish classes, where I read novels, wrote essays, and participated in debates. I knew that it would be frustrating to start at level one, and to be honest, it was. During the speaking activities, I kept thinking to myself, “if only this was in Spanish” or “I could easily do this in Spanish”. At times, I felt discouraged, but I evaluated the situation. I realized that I was doing quite well in the class. I learned all the vocabulary. I was able to comprehend the readings. I was getting A’s on all of my exams. In fact, I was one of the top students in the class. I reflected on my experience learning Spanish and realized that I was not getting as frustrated because I now had developed strategies for learning languages. If I had not taken another language before German, would I have done as well? It’s hard to say. Regardless, learning Spanish gave me the tools to tackle other languages.
In 2019, make it one of your resolutions to learn a new language! Because of the internet, learning a language has never been easier. There are apps and websites to help you learn from the comfort of your home. If you’re like me and prefer a traditional classroom setting, you can take classes at a university or institute near you!
Wishing you a happy New Year and the best of luck with your new language journey,