Tue. Jan 18th, 2022

“A translator? And how much will that make ya?” Remarked my aunt at my uncle’s Christmas party over winter break. She had walked up to me and asked what I’m going to do with my French degree once I graduate, and I replied that I would be a translator. However, that is not the reason why I chose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in French.  Sometimes I feel that money is the sole focus of  students who come to college, and while money is a valid concern since people do need to pay bills, there are benefits beyond the obvious for foreign language majors.  I chose my studies chiefly out of passion and interest, however that is not to say there are benefits to foreign language learning, besides being able to communicate with millions more people and traveling the world confidently.

Research shows that people who have extensively studied a foreign language make more rational decisions; learning a second language forces the learner’s mind to accept a whole new set of grammatical and structural rules, on both how to interpret and communicate the same information in a different context.  Promoting the ability to look at any situation in a more rational context also facilitates a greater understanding and appreciation of foreign cultures. Which allows a learner to become better-rounded and to discard the fallacious assumption that foreign countries are static entities, but rather they are just as dynamic and diverse as we are here in the United States.  Additionally, scholarly research suggests learners who learn foreign language are better equipped to solve more complex problems as opposed to their monolingual peers (Bamford and Mizokawa, 1991) another study suggests that studying foreign languages helps with mathematics (Armstrong 1997), and yet another claims a student’s spatial abilities increase (Diaz 1983).  These are just a few of the benefits, more can be found online with a simple Google search.

Additionally, learners of foreign languages are forced to take a closer look at their own language themselves. I can personally say my English speaking and writing is becoming better the more I study French.  For instance, knowing the proper way to translate between French and English has forced me to observe the nuances of both languages.  Indeed, knowing that “With whom are you eating?” is correct as opposed to “Who are you eating with?”  Another is knowing when to use “less” as opposed to “fewer”.  Stores often have check-out lines with signs saying “eight items or less,” when in reality they should say “eight items or fewer.”  “Fewer” is used for items that can be counted, and “less” is for items that cannot.  While these differences may seem trivial, being-well spoken and articulate makes searching for a job much easier.

Another obscure group of benefits include the health of the brain.  An article that appeared on Live Science suggests people who have mastered a second language can delay the onset of dementia by an average of four years.

Health benefits aside, numerous job opportunities open up as well.  As globalization presses onward and the world becomes much closer knit through technology, the need to reach across cultures and traverse language barriers will only increase.  I feel my decision to pursue a degree in French is correct, and I encourage all students, regardless of their current studies, to expose themselves to a foreign language.  Even a little bit of studying will help cultivate understanding and improve the learner in an all-around fashion.  And when everything is all said and done, life is about making the best choices, not necessarily ones that will yield the most cash.

Adam Farence is a third-year student majoring in history and French. He can be reached at AF764146@wcupa.edu. 

 

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One thought on “Study foreign languages!”
  1. What you say is spot on Adam. I do however wish to add a qualification to what you say. All of what you says is correct IF the learner is actually achieving success in learning the language. Why this point is important to make is because, according to the statistics the vast majority of people who attempt to learn a second language give up way before they reach even a moderate level of proficiency.
    The reality is that ALL of us can be successful but because the way we are taught ( and hence learn) is counter intuitive. For eg, even though some people love teaching/studying the grammar, the reality is that doing that is counter intuitive to learning to become fluent in a language.
    Anyways, will not rabbit on..enjoy!!

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