There are so many reasons to learn a language, but I am going to give you the top 5 reasons why you should get off that couch and start speaking.
1. It is undeniably rewarding. When you start learning a new language, there will be a period when you know some words, but are not yet quite able to string much of a sentence together. The first time that you have a conversation, no matter how small in a new foreign language is the best feeling. It boosts your confidence and you feel like you were just given the keys to a brand new country. As your skill increases, the level of discourse that you are able to participate in is raised as well. Each new experience that you have solely in a foreign language becomes its own reward for all of your hard work. If it felt good to successfully navigate the metro using your new language, imagine what it would feel like to order a meal, make a new friend or even have some intimate relations all in a different language.
2. It makes traveling so much easier. In this day and age, so many people in the world speak English that it really could be quite easy for those of us who have it as a native language to be quite lazy. You can go most places and get by with only using English, but I assure you that there will be many misunderstandings and break downs in communication. If you speak the local language, your time there will be much easier than some other travelers. Imagine having to mime to a poor pharmacist in Russia that you are having uncontrollable diarrhea and need some medicine quick smart. I’m sure your charades will be quite amusing for the rest of the customers to watch.
3. Learning a new language is easier than you think. To become one hundred percent fluent and completely native sounding in another language is ridiculously hard and could take a lifetime to achieve. If that is your goal, then you had better hit the books and start practicing. For the average traveler, being able to procure food, train tickets and other such simple life necessities is all they really need to be able to do in their chosen foreign language. To learn enough to get by in common traveler type situations is easy and should take you no longer than a couple of hours. Of course you will still make mistakes and there will be lots of things that you miss, but you have learned enough to get by.
4. Your stay in any foreign country will be much more interesting. I spent hours in China trying to decipher the complex characters all around me. I read a Mexican newspaper everyday to see if I could learn some new words. I used to sit and listen to conversations in bars in Paris to see if I could pick up any juicy bits of gossip. The point is, I was having so much fun in the most mundane situations because I had an interest in the local language.
5. People appreciate a foreigner trying to speak their language. Imagine if you were a waiter and a Japanese person came up to you and let loose a barrage of Japanese at you. Most of us would probably end up becoming quite rude or at the very least frustrated by that person. Now imagine if that same person came up to you and explained in very broken English that they wanted to order some food. Most of us would bend over backwards to help that person.
A good place to start your journey to learn a foreign language is to learn how to say hello and thank you.
Written by Joseph Ramsey for The Essential Destination