1. If you’re monolingual, you’re actually a minority.
That’s right. There are actually more people in the world who speak two languages than people who speak only one language. So, why not join the majority of the planet and learn a second language?
2. You may offset diseases that come with old age.
There are many benefits to learning a second language as an adult. However, I believe that one of the most appealing reasons has to do with health and well-being. As a person ages, it is normal for them to experience a decline in cognitive control. Bialystok (2009) studied a sample of 184 participants; half of the individuals were bilingual and the other were monolingual. She found that “bilinguals showed signs of dementia four years later than the monolinguals–with a mean age of 71.4 and 75.5 for monolinguals and bilinguals respectively” (Bialystok 2009: 8-9).
All in all, many studies support the idea that you may be able to put off the onset of age-related diseases just by knowing a second language.
3. You’ll be more appealing as an employee.
It’s becoming harder and harder to stick out from the competition in job interviews. So, how about adding speaking another language to your resume? Not only will you be more appealing to companies in your home country, but global companies are also more likely to look your way.
4. You’ll surprise foreigners by not being a “typical American”.
I can tell you from personal experience that there is no better feeling than breaking negative American stereotypes. I love speaking Spanish or Portuguese and telling someone my nationality. The typical response is “wow, you don’t meet many Americans that speak another language” or “usually I have to speak only English with Americans”. Surprise the foreigners you meet instead of reinforcing American stereotypes.
5. You’ll meet people you never would have met otherwise.
Speaking another language automatically opens the door to being able to communicate with millions of other people. You’ll be able to feel safer when you travel and have more options to meet people. Let’s say you’re staying at a hostel and the only other guests are Spanish-speakers who don’t speak English. Don’t you want to have the chance to communicate with them?
6. English may be important now, but it won’t always be.
Yes, English is undoubtedly the current lingua franca. However, here’s the thing: the lingua franca changes over time. In fact, prior to WWII, French would have been considered the lingua franca and much more important than English. The widespread use of English has advanced with the importance of English-speaking countries. Looking at history, countries and languages rise and fall in prestige over the years. English is important now, but if we look at language patterns over time, it is most likely that English will not be as significant in the future. The excuse that you don’t have to learn another language because you’re American may work now, but it may not work for your descendants.
Bialystok, E. (2009). Bilingualism: The good, the bad, and the indifferent. Bilingualism: Language and cognition, 12(01), 3-11.