Depending on your culture and home country, the people around you will have varying levels of language ability. I grew up in the UK where everybody speaks English; alongside…well that was it. I have one friend – just one friend – whose father is from France and his ability to speak French meant that he was hugely admired and envied throughout our time at school; even though all these feelings were well hidden behind mildly racist jokes about frogs and garlic.
At the other end of the scale of linguistic capability, we have countries like Belgium, a tiny little place with no less than three official languages (French, German and Dutch) as well as several Flemish dialects – and English is very widely spoken. So in Belgium someone who speaks a second language may not be the talk of the multilingual town; but in the UK, we love it!
Here are five reasons why:
1) It´s sexy
Let´s face it, if you´re a simple monolinguist, then somebody speaking in another language is impressive. Maybe they suddenly answer the phone in German or see a foreign friend and start speaking in different language, and this will no doubt have a knee-weakening effect on you – regardless of the person’s gender.
2) Polyglots are smarter
If you didn’t know that word already – you´re welcome! Some of us may not like to admit it, but it´s true. Science said so – don´t argue. Apparently people who speak more than one language have more grey matter in their brains…I have no idea what that means either. It doesn’t sound like a particularly good thing but apparently, it is! We may have to start importing grey matter into the UK…or learning languages? Nah, too difficult.
3) Languages open doors
Having a second language looks great on your CV. It shows you´re motivated, you’ve managed to get your head around some really difficult concepts and you have effectively doubled your ability to communicate. It also demonstrates a better knowledge of the world than a monolingual candidate.
4) Multilinguists are funnier
Speaking a second language may not have a direct effect on your ability to produce ingenious witticisms – it´s a gift really – but it certainly opens up a whole new world of jokes to be told and understood. Humour is a huge part of (most) people’s lives. Another language also exposes you to other cultural stuff such as literature, film and music.
5) Inciting jealousy in others
As Salvador Dalí said:
‘The thermometer of success is merely the jealousy of malcontents.’
Basically, when you’ve made another human being unhappy with jealousy, you know you’re doing alright.
When somebody compliments you – a regular occurrence, I’m sure – and says for example “I like your jacket” what they actually mean is “my entire being burns with white-hot jealousy and I must possess this fine garment before me.”
The same thing happens with languages. When somebody hears you speak in another language and they say “I wish I could speak another language…” what they really mean is “I´m considering killing you and cutting out your tongue in an attempt to assume its numinous powers.”
6) Taking risks
People who have struggled through learning a second language must learn how to take risks. At a young age our sponge-like brains are designed to absorb as much about language as they can. However, if we stick with this metaphor, the sponge becomes less absorbent the more we advance into adulthood and learning languages becomes maddeningly frustrating…I´m pretty sure my brain is more of a brick than a sponge.
You make mistakes over and over again and if you don´t become accustomed to taking risks and making mistakes…it will destroy you – literally! Well not literally; but you will give up. Which is even worse!
If you don´t speak another language yet, then break free from the monotonous world of monolinguals, become the twin-tongued Lothario you always wanted to be! Alternatively download Doulingo, spend a decreasing amount of time on it the each day, until by the end of the week, you’ve forgotten you ever had it, and reassume your old sense of inadequacy. Sounds good to me!