Maybe it’s counterintuitive to suggest that now, when the rest of the world seems more off-limits than ever, is the perfect time to start learning another language. With all that’s going on, it probably seems like the least appropriate way to spend your time. But if you’re still searching for something to do this summer, here’s a few reasons why learning a language might not be the worst thing you could do with your time:
More free time on your hands
With so many summer plans cancelled, most of us have a lot more free time than we expected. With this free time comes a great opportunity to try something new. Language learning doesn’t have to take up a lot of time either; although according to research from the US Foreign Service Institute it takes around 480 hours to reach basic fluency in group 1 languages (such as French, German or Swahili) and around 720 hours for languages in groups 2-4 (including Finnish, Arabic and Korean), spending just ten minutes a day is enough to learn and consolidate vocab and basic grammar points. Moreover, making language-learning a habit will make it much easier if you decide to continue learning when university resumes and suddenly there’s a lot more to juggle.
There’s also never been an easier time to get started. Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Channel 4 and Amazon Prime all offer foreign-language series and films from around the world. In addition, free access to other mediums like podcasts, Youtube videos and Wikipedia articles mean that exposure to a foreign language has never been easier or less expensive. There are also a plethora of language apps out there, from Duolingo to niche platforms that aim to teach you languages through song lyrics and short stories. Websites such as Italki even allow you to converse with native speakers for free. The sky really is the limit.
You can work out which method is best for you
Starting a language now also allows you to learn at your own pace and work out what method of learning is best for you. In quarantine, you don’t have to pay for evening classes or feel the pressure of a looming university assignment. You can put in as much time as you want.
Boost your employability
With so many internships and summer jobs cancelled because of COVID-19, it’s easy to see this year as a write-off and spend the summer doing nothing. However, spending this time learning a language could be beneficial for the future. In an increasingly globalised world, knowledge of an additional language can be advantageous in job interviews and lead to a potentially higher salary.
It’s more important than you might think.
You should also think about learning a second language because it’s important.
I’ve come across so many people in my lifetime who think that it’s pointless to learn another language, under the impression that everyone speaks English. It is estimated that there are around 1.5 billion English speakers in the world. Given that the global population is nearing 8 billion, that’s not even a quarter of the global population and what’s more, only around 360 million of this number speak English as their first language. According to the Government’s Green paper of March 2018, 770,000 people in England aged 16 and over cannot speak English well or at all. It’s not just abroad where language skills can be helpful. Learning a language also allows you to develop an awareness and understanding of different cultures, something that in the current climate seems all too necessary.
Get to know new people
Learning a language allows you to communicate, with empathy and compassion, to those you may not have been able to communicate with before. And when the time comes where travel abroad is possible, your new-found language skills will help you to travel more meaningfully, avoid stressful situations and venture beyond the typical tourist trail.
Numerous studies link language learning to improved memory retention, decision-making skills and focus. A report from Alzheimers UK even suggests that being able to speak more than one language can slow the onset of dementia.
There are so many reasons to learn a language and so many benefits of doing so. From transforming your career prospects to just getting to know the world a little better, languages offer countless opportunities limited only by your imagination.
Discover them while you have the chance.