Learning a Second Language: Benefits for Adult Learners
Are you considering learning a second language? The benefits of bilingualism can extend far beyond the classroom, offering personal growth and professional opportunities. From improved memory to better job prospects, adult language learners have much to gain from learning a new language, making it a worthwhile commitment.
To give you a better idea of what you can expect when learning a second language, we’ll explore the most important personal and professional benefits that come with solid foreign language skills and second language proficiency, in particular.
Why is it important to know more than one language?
Knowing two or more languages is essential in today’s ever-expanding global community. It gives you access to a wider range of ideas, cultures, and perspectives, which can broaden your understanding of the world. Furthermore, speaking a foreign language can benefit your career, as many employers are looking for multilingual individuals who can communicate with people from different backgrounds.
In other words, personal growth and professional advancement are the two primary motivations driving second language learning in adulthood. Let’s take a look at each in more detail.
Learning a second language: Personal benefits
There are many general advantages associated with learning a second language as an adult, leading to different opportunities in terms of communication, thinking skills, social relationships, and personal development. Here are our top five:
- Improved cognitive function
The first personal benefit of learning a second language is that it can help keep mental ageing at bay. Research shows that mental stimulation involved in language learning can:
- Help maintain neural pathways
- Improve attention span
- Prevent cognitive decline, and
- Delay mental illness.
This is why cross-cultural communication can become a powerful mental fitness tool. So, there are excellent reasons to learn a second language later in life – or at any age, for that matter.
- Enhanced cultural understanding
Language opens the door to a different way of thinking, allowing you to connect with and understand people from different parts of the world. Knowing a foreign language gives you an insight into how people from other backgrounds think and act, helping you to relate to people of different perspectives and cultures.
Or, if you’re a bilingual speaker with a dual cultural identity, you could also connect with your heritage more efficiently by developing a deeper understanding of the local language in your (or your parents’) home country. For example, if you have Italian ancestors and learn the language, it may help you rediscover your cultural and linguistic roots.
- Increased Creativity
Another critical advantage of learning a second language is that it boosts creativity. This is because developing communication skills in a foreign language requires you to use different parts of your brain, which can bring new perspectives to the creative thinking process.
But there’s more: creativity also improves mental well-being and helps to relieve stress. Therefore, learning other languages can effectively broaden your creative horizons and approach everyday problems with a more positive mindset.
- Better first language skills
Interestingly, learning a second language can also help you to become better at your own tongue. This happens because the sentence structure and grammar of your own language are easier to identify when they are contrasted with the same elements in another target language.
So, if you’re looking to improve your native language skills, consider taking up a second language course – it might surprise you just how much it enhances your proficiency in your mother tongue.
- More travel options
Another great personal benefit of learning a second language is that it can provide access to many more travel opportunities. Knowing a foreign language helps you connect with locals, allowing for a more immersive travel experience. It can also improve communication with other language speakers and encourage conversations with people you meet on your travels.
Learning a second language: Professional benefits
On top of these general advantages, learning a second language can also provide more tangible benefits that directly impact your career prospects. Here is our run-down of the top five career benefits we think you should be aware of as a language learner:
- Improved career opportunities
As mentioned earlier, continual globalization means bilingual candidates are becoming increasingly sought after in the job market. Having a second language on your CV can open up exciting new career opportunities, both at home and abroad. This applies especially to those who work in fields such as teaching, healthcare or law enforcement – where fluency in a foreign language is an invaluable asset.
- Increased networking potential
Proficiency in more than one language can give you access to an entirely new network of contacts, which can immensely benefit your career. Speaking another language can open the door to new collaborations and projects, as well as provide an opportunity to make valuable connections in different markets.
LinkedIn is an excellent platform for connecting with potential business contacts, so make sure to have your language proficiencies listed in your profile.
- Enhanced business communications
Second-language proficiency can also help you establish more effective communication with international business partners and customers. Having the ability to converse with them in their language can lead to smoother negotiations and more successful collaborations.
This is particularly beneficial if you work in a customer-facing role or often engage with suppliers outside your home country.
- Improved customer service skills
Elaborating further on the previous point, communicating with customers in their own language can make a huge difference in the customer experience. This is because it helps to build trust and enables you to understand their needs more clearly, which can result in better quality service and higher customer satisfaction.
So, if your customer base includes foreign language speakers, having a good command of their language can be vital for improving your customer service.
- Better salary prospects
And last but not least, having a second language on your CV can result in higher salaries. This is because bilingual candidates are viewed as more valuable assets to companies, and having a second language can set one candidate apart from the rest.
Of course, the monetary value of this skill varies depending on the industry, the company location, and the language in question, but second language proficiency is generally considered a vital skill that employers are willing to pay for.
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Next Steps to Learning a New Language
Learning a second language in adulthood is not only advantageous for your personal growth but can also improve your career prospects in significant ways. Whether you’re looking to develop a deeper intercultural understanding, facilitate communication with international partners, or gain access to new networks, having a good command of a second language can make all the difference in today’s globalized world.
Ready to work on your foreign language skills but need help deciding what language to learn? Check out our helpful recommendations for what language to focus on based on what you want to get out of the experience.
Cactus offers an extensive selection of online language courses, enabling you to learn no matter where you’re located – at home, in the office or on the go. You can pick and choose a course that best suits your needs, and our advice for learning languages remotely will ensure your journey is off to a successful start.
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About the Author
Dr. Anneke Schmidt is the founder of Skill & Care Content Solutions. She is an experienced content writer, editor, and educator with a demonstrated history of working in the research industry. Her main specialisms are Social Sciences and Education, with a particular focus on e-learning and professional development.