Sun. May 26th, 2024

Image: op-ed languages

Being multilingual is one of the most valuable skill sets in the modern world. Knowing more than one language can allow you to communicate with ease in many situations, and to make connections with people and cultures that would otherwise be inaccessible to you. And, of course, foreign language skills are particularly attractive to employers. Acquiring knowledge of a new language and being able to communicate competently in it can seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, WCU offers many language classes, and, without doubt, there are many advantages to pursuing the study of a new language. Students who want to thrive in multicultural communication and improve their critical and creative thinking skills will certainly benefit from amplifying their skills in this area. 

According to the article “9 Benefits of Learning a Second Language” published by the University of the Potomac, language learning stimulates the brain, improves the attention span and strengthens concentration, especially when you have to switch between multiple languages when speaking, reading, writing or listening. For the same reason, it allows you to multitask more effectively. Furthermore, language learning elevates creativity and improves memory. And, perhaps unexpectedly, it also improves your understanding of the grammar and syntax of your native language as you learn the logic behind these structural elements of speech and writing. Finally, language learning can improve your self-esteem and sense of accomplishment, especially when you are able to converse proficiently with a native speaker. 

Some English speakers may wonder why it is necessary to learn foreign languages, since English has become the common second language of many western nations. In countries such as the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany, children learn English in school from a young age, and much of the population in these countries, especially the younger generations, can communicate very well in this language. In other parts of the world, English is becoming the dominant language of business and commerce. Nevertheless, it would be foolish to rely completely on one’s knowledge of English to interact with the rest of the world. As we know, the United States’ closest neighbors, aside from Canada, are the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America. Whether a person from the U.S.A. travels to a Latin American country, or interacts with members of Latino immigrant communities in the U.S.A., it is necessary to be able to communicate in Spanish. Similarly, if one plans to interact with foreigners in one’s job — in any profession — being able to communicate in their language is an enormous benefit. 

However, it’s not only for professional reasons that language learning is beneficial. Learning a new language opens up your opportunities to meet new people whom you otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to, or have been able to communicate with. People who live in the U.S.A. will find it extremely beneficial to be able to communicate in Spanish. For people who learn a language which isn’t commonly spoken in the U.S.A., meeting and interacting with immigrants who speak this language can be very positive and mutually beneficial; in my experience, people are generally pleased to meet someone with whom they can speak in their native language, especially when they rarely have the opportunity to do so. Not only that, but the exchange of cultural knowledge that comes from befriending people from a different background than your own will deepen your understanding of foreign customs and traditions, and widen your view of the world. 

An old saying claims that “to have a second language is to possess a second soul.” In other words, the more languages you know, the broader your perspective on the world becomes. If you learn another language — even just a little bit of it — you can open many doors for yourself. If you take it step-by-step, language learning can be an enjoyable and entertaining process, which holds a great number of advantages in the long run. I highly encourage you to pursue it! 

At WCU, the following language classes are available: American Sign Language, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Spanish.


Emily Karreman is a third-year History and Russian major with minors in Spanish and Global Studies.

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