Academic Blogs

Student Blog: The Importance of Learning a Foreign Language

19 March 2019

The best decision I ever made in my life was the day I decided to learn English. If I am being honest, I just wanted to understand what my parents were saying when they spoke about me in English. I was seven years old, and I begged my parents to change me to a bilingual school.

The first months were the hardest. I kept putting my hand up in class because I wanted to take part, but when the teacher called on me, I didn’t know how to answer. It was so frustrating! I’m sure you’ve all been there.

I didn’t give up. I practised at home with my mom. I switched to American TV. I had long conversations with my cousins in English. And I am so glad I did. Suddenly, I was putting my hand up, and I had the words I wanted.

Seven years later, I feel almost as at home in English as in Spanish. So why am I so grateful I didn’t give up?

Being bilingual has opened so many doors for me.

If I hadn’t learned English, I wouldn’t even be here in Switzerland in the first place.

If I hadn’t learned English, I would have a smaller range of places I can go, study, and work in the future.

If I hadn’t learned English, I would not have met the amazing people at Surval that are now a big part of my life.

So why do I think it’s important for us to learn other languages?

Being bilingual offers an immense amount of advantages. For instance, applications for jobs, schools, universities are greatly improved the more languages you know. Nowadays, you get a better paid job if you speak two languages fluently (according to Forbes magazine).

When travelling, understanding the language of the country you are visiting not only provides the obvious advantages - getting around and communicating successfully - it also enables you to comprehend the culture in a totally different way.

Learning a language means learning about the culture. Language is an integral part of the culture in a country. The most fun way to improve your ability to speak the language is to watch movies and TV series, and  read books in the original language. This enables you to enjoy the true and original meaning of the writer. What I mean is, there are words in other languages where you cannot translate the nuance of the word. I am sure there are plenty of examples in Spanish, Ukrainian, and Russian where there is no exact word in English you can use to describe something the way you would in your own language.

You may say that it is too difficult to learn a foreign language. And yes, learning a language is hard but, with modern technology, it is at the tips of your fingers. Practicing for ten to fifteen minutes every day on softwares like Duolingo, Linguascope, or Rosetta Stone on the language of your choice is the first step. We are lucky to have languages offered to us here as classes. We have a diverse list of options we can choose from: French, German, Italian, and Spanish. And moreover, just because something is hard, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it; we should overcome the challenge instead of chickening out! Especially when there is scientific evidence to suggest that speaking two languages makes us more intelligent.

Being bilingual is proven to enhance a child’s cognitive skills, and the brain gets more exercise solving internal conflicts. Studies have shown that bilinguals have a lower chance to the Alzheimer disease.

And at the end of the day, it’s fun!  It becomes a never ending learning process - in a good way. As time passes, the language changes, new words come up, grammar rules change. And the more you know, the more you’ll want to know.

I’m so grateful I changed to a bilingual school, because English is such an incredible tool for me. I’m so glad I learnt it sooner rather than later, because now I have the chance to learn French.

The best decision you’ll ever make, is to learn a new language.