The Advantages of Learning Foreign Languages

by Trudie Longren

    In today's global society, people are well aware of the more obvious advantages of learning a foreign language for college students, young job seekers and world travelers. Educational literature also abounds regarding the advantages of being bilingual from childhood. Learning a foreign language also brings other, less evident but equally beneficial advantages. These advantages can positively influence your health and family relations, bringing benefits to the young and mature foreign language learner alike.

    Brain Fitness

    Recent medical studies bring attention to the positive effects learning a foreign language has on the health of the human brain. Studies by York University of Alzheimer's patients demonstrated that those who were bilingual had a significant delay in the onset of the disease compared to their monolingual counterparts. Other studies concerning the health of monolingual and bilingual patients' brains showed that the effects of dementia were less advanced in bilingual patients even though their brains showed more brain damage as a result of the disease.

    Job Preservation

    Knowledge of a foreign language is equally useful for maintaining employment, particularly in industries where companies look to relocate business or expand into other markets. This is because downsized or outsourced employees who speak the language of the country where the company plans to relocate can gain an advantage in the race to be appointed to a post in the new location. Knowledge of the language of the region where your company is expanding into new markets can make you indispensable to the success of the business as you bridge the cultural gap between the two locations.

    Family Ties and Networks

    Knowing a foreign language can help keep your extended family intact while also expanding your network of contacts. For example, if your family came to the United States during World War II from Germany, you may also have family members who remained in Germany and others who migrated to places like Argentina and Chile; therefore knowing Spanish and German will help you stay in contact with those family members and will also be useful in conducting any genealogical research about your ancestry. On social networking sites, members speak many languages and live all over the globe; knowing another language permits you to reach people who would not necessarily be in your network due to the difference in language. This enlarges the geographical scope of your relationships and enables you to expand your business and personal contacts.

    Additional Compensation

    Some employers are willing to offer additional compensation to employees who have verifiable foreign language competency, particularly if such languages are in high demand like Arabic, Urdu or Farsi. For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Language Services Section is dedicated to providing linguists across the law enforcement community to offer translation and other language services. The FBI has developed a special program -- Foreign Language Incentive Pay -- that awards additional compensation to employees who have certified foreign language proficiency in critical foreign languages.

    About the Author

    Trudie Longren began writing in 2008 for legal publications, including the "American Journal of Criminal Law." She has served as a classroom teacher and legal writing professor. Longren holds a bachelor's degree in international politics, a Juris Doctor and an LL.M. in human rights. She also speaks Spanish and French.

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