Reason #1: School
Quite simply, your high school or university may require you to study a foreign language. While you may not have a choice in this matter, you can have a positive attitude and really try to learn, or you can just sit in the back of the class, doodling and passing notes. Trying to learn Spanish at 8 am may not be at the top of your list, but getting a good background can really help you continue learning the language in the future. Plus, some high schools offer Advanced Placement classes for languages, which means you may be able to earn college credit if you perform well on the exam.
Also, many colleges and universities require prospective students to study a certain number of years of a foreign language in high school in order to be considered for admission. Colleges know that a foreign language can be tough, so three or four years of good grades in high school French may help you get into a selective college. Some university study abroad programs also have a language requirement, so your dreams of sipping red wine along the Seine may be dashed without some French language skills.
Reason #2: Work
In today's global economy, speaking a second language can open up many career-related opportunities. Maybe your company has branches elsewhere in the world, or perhaps it is even based in another country. Your corporation may be trying to sign a contract with a company located in China. When they are looking to build a team for these international projects, they'll be looking for employees with language skills. If you can speak Japanese, you may just find yourself headed to Tokyo on a business trip.
Speaking a second language can also set your résumé apart from other job applicants. It is not only a useful skill, but also a marker of hard work and intelligence. Plus, it can be a talking point in an interview. Your future boss may be curious about how you came to speak Russian, and you can tell him all about the internship you did in Moscow that summer.
Reason #3: Travel
At some point, chances are good you'll want to leave the United States if you haven't already. Prices on cruises can drop quite low, and you can sometimes snag amazing deals to Europe and beyond. When you step off the cruise ship in Mexico, speaking Spanish can help you ask directions, find a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that serves the best food in town, and bargain with vendors for great souvenirs at even better prices.
Speaking the local language will not only make the logistics of your trip easier, but the locals will be quicker to smile and lend a hand when you ask for help. Many places off the beaten path don't have a lot of English speakers hanging around, so you may find yourself in a bit of a pickle if you are relying solely on your native language.
Endless Reasons to Learn
The ways in which a second language can help and enrich your life are endless. Maybe your new significant other is from an Italian family, and you want to really impress Grandma at the next family event. Or maybe you want to read your favorite novel in the original German.
Everyone has their own reason for why it's important to learn a second language. It may seem tough (or even impossible) now, but the rewards you can reap are numerous and you'll be thankful you stuck with it.
- Omniglot: Why Should I Learn a Language?; http://www.omniglot.com/language/why.htm
- Photo credit: Japanese High School Textbooks by Asahiko under CC by -SA 3.0
- GreatSchools: Why Learn a Second Language?; http://www.greatschools.org/students/academic-skills/540-learn-second-language.gs