It's never been easier to be a native English speaker.
Look around you. Even if you live in a foreign country, you probably see English somewhere nearby, whether it's a subway station sign, a Starbucks, or an advertisement for a Hollywood film.
Beyond the global deluge of American culture, it also seems like everyone, everywhere is trying to learn English. As some, like entrepreneur Jay Walker, have attested to, English is becoming the language of problem-solving. The international commonality.
So, it begs the question: If you've been saying "Hello,""Goodbye," and "Where's the bathroom?" from a young age, why should you take the time to learn a foreign language?
It's a logical question, with many neurological, cultural and practical answers.
We'll take a look at one from each category. Let's start with the brain.
Being bilingual changes your brain for the better.
Learning anything does amazing things for the brain. When we can form new connections in the brain, it helps us to think differently. Being able to view things from different perspectives can aid us in problem solving and critical thinking.
Not to mention the overall mental exercise that comes from juggling two languages at once. With two languages in mind (literally), we must cognitively navigate both when moving through the world.
Apart from the biological changes that occur with language learning, having another language at your disposal can also give you words for ones that don't exist in English. For example, when you try to make something better and it gets worse, or that feeling you have after an epic meal.
Who doesn’t want to be a little quicker on their feet or a bag of vocabulary tricks up their sleeve?
Speaking another language more deeply immerses you in a culture
Slowly but surely, most tourist destinations are realizing the necessity of having English-speaking personnel on staff. It can be tempting to rely on this increasingly common amenity when arriving to a new destination.
However, taking the time to learn anywhere from a few basic phrases to survival interactions to conversational comfort and fluency can make a huge difference in the experience you have in a given place.
Obviously, reactions to your perhaps feeble language skills may vary. Some groups are particularly proud of their language, and might get offended by your butchering. However, many others will see your attempts as an effort to connect –– to go beyond the enjoyment of someone else's culture, and move towards appreciating it.
This can lead to pleasant interactions at a grocery store, a successful interchange in a local restaurant or even a new friend that you may not have otherwise made.
Shared languages build bridges
These days, the easiest way for native English-speakers to work abroad is through teaching English. By delivering a highly-sought after service to those around the world, aspiring global travelers can make a living whilst experiencing other cultures.
This kind of cultural exchange can be lovely, but can fall short when it is one-directional. Taking the time to attempt and empathize with the struggle of learning a language can strengthen the ties between English teachers and students, or anyone who is enjoying the benefit of cruising through a country with an only-English tongue.
Such effort can also help to break stereotypes. It's no secret that English speakers –– more specifically, those from the United States –– can be very insular, and lack cultural competence and awareness. By disproving the notion that all "Americans" are ignorant of other cultures, you can form connections with those who might have been wary of you previously, ultimately resulting in deeper interactions, richer conversations and better relationships.
So, while those of us with English backgrounds from childhood technically can bask in the ease of navigating a world that’s catered to us with things we understand, there are many reasons to take the time to learn a foreign language.
Now, with free apps like Duolingo taking on the traditional language-learning process, the excuses are dwindling for all of us to speak at least another language, or dos.
Let's change the world.
Who wrote this?
Gina Edwards, Impact Explorer founder and lover of all pun jokes, making a positive change in the world, Stephen Colbert, Jif Peanut Butter, and staying inside on rainy days. Order may vary.