Why Learn Spanish? Seven Reasons You Should Start Today
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We often hear English labeled as the “global language”, which is a good excuse for native speakers not to learn a new language.
So why learn Spanish?
You may be surprised to know that Spanish has already overtaken English as the second most spoken language in the world (behind Chinese), and is continuing to grow in traditionally non-Spanish speaking countries like the United States.
Whether your motivation for speaking Spanish is to travel the world, get that dream job that requires Spanish, or simply as a self-development exercise, learning a second language is something that can positively impact all facets of your life.
Let’s dive in.
1. Easy for English speakers
We’re not saying that learning Spanish is necessarily easy for all English speakers, but most people would agree that if you are going to learn a second language, then Spanish is one of the easier ones to learn.
Yes, the grammar is different (we’re looking at you, subjunctive).
Yes, the pronunciation takes a bit of getting used to.
Once you get past that, you’ll notice that there are tons of similarities when it comes to vocabulary. Because English acquired almost 30% of its vocabulary from Latin, you will immediately recognize and understand many Spanish words that share the same roots.
For example, there are Spanish words that are the exact same in English:
Then there are similar words, known as near perfect cognates
And finally, there are Spanish words which only require knowing a simple rule to translate them from English.
For example, English nouns ending in ‘ary’ can be converted to Spanish by replacing the ending with ‘ario’.
These are a few examples of how you can “unlock” a ton of Spanish vocabulary that you already know as an English speaker.
2. Traveling Becomes A Richer Experience
As we mentioned before, Spanish is now the 2nd most spoken language in the world, with 437 million native speakers worldwide.
Once you start learning Spanish, you’ll have a list of 21 Spanish speaking countries to choose from for your next adventure.
Whether it’s visiting the magical Machu Picchu ruins in Peru.
Or learning how to dance Salsa in Colombia.
Or watching Barcelona v Real Madrid battle it out in “El Clasico”.
Once you learn the language, traveling to a Spanish speaking country becomes a much richer experience.
Not only will be able to interact with locals, but you’ll be able to navigate your way around cities with ease, negotiate prices at the market, understand directions and in general, handle most situations that tend to induce stress when you’re in a foreign country and can’t speak the local language.
“Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going” ‒Rita Mae Brown
We couldn’t have said it better, Rita.
3. Boost Your Resume And Earn More Money
It’s almost a cliche to say that learning a second language makes you more employable.
Well, perhaps like most cliches, the reason that this is a cliche, is because it’s true.
Speaking a second language is skill, and a premium one at that.
So why does it matter?
There are a couple of reasons for this.
1. Most job markets are incredibly competitive and when faced with similar competition, there’s a good chance that being bilingual will make you stand out from the competition. After all which employer wouldn’t prefer a bilingual employee over someone with the exact same qualifications and experience, but who only speaks one language.
2. If you are based in the USA, then being a Spanish speaking employee will allow your employer to better serve the Hispanic population – which counts for over 18% of the population right now. It doesn’t matter if you work in a hospital, a restaurant, a call center, or in an office, there will always be a demand for bilingual employees.
3. In business, particularly, corporations are realizing the importance of the Latin American market, and being bilingual makes you an asset for any company who wishes to connect with the LATM market.
In fact, the USA is the number one trade partner for Latin America, with a total trade of more than $763 billion (based on figures from a 2017 report).
The demand for Spanish speaking employees was confirmed in a 2006 study highlighted by the Economist, where a University of California professor found that bilinguals in southern California earn nearly $3,000 more per year than Californians who only spoke English.
There is similar demand for bilingual speakers in Europe, according to Irene Missen, a language specialist for recruitment agency Euro London, who says that in jobs like sales, marketing, and technical support, a language can increase your salary by about 10-15%.
4. Proven Cognitive Benefits
You may have heard that speaking a second language can make you smarter.
But is there any truth in this?
According to a study by the Journal of Neuroscience, being bilingual helps “maintain youthful cognitive control abilities in aging”. Without getting too bogged down in the details, the study concluded that bilinguals are less likely to lose cognitive control as they grow older, in addition to being able to switch from one task to another more quickly, and maintain their focus to avoid being distracted.
Not only will being bilingual keep you smart, but there are also some impressive health benefits.
This research paper found that bilingualism can act as a form of “cognitive reserve” and delay the onset of Alzheimer disease. A similar article on alzheimersnewstoday.com states that “bilingualism appears to protect the brain from Alzheimer’s symptoms”
5. Fall In Love With A New Culture
The word “culture” is used so often these days that it has almost become a buzzword.
But what do we mean by “culture” as it relates to language learning?
One of the beautiful things that happens when you learn a new language is that over time, as you become more invested in the language, you may also find yourself more invested in a culture associated with that language.
As someone learning Spanish, this might mean:
- Becoming an aficionado of in Mexican cinema
- Deciding to take a course on cooking Peruvian food
- Learning how to dance Salsa and attending the local Latin night every weekend
- Becoming a hardcore fan of an Argentinian soccer team, and planning a trip to see a live game
Learning a new language gives you the keys to explore a completely new culture – one that you may just fall in love with.
6. It Becomes Easier To Learn A Third Language
Once you are able to speak Spanish, learning a third language will become a lot easier.
According to a study featured on ScienceDaily.com, people who speak two languages have an easier time gaining command of a third language, rather than people who are fluent in only one language.
Ok, perhaps that’s not so surprising.
One fascinating part of the study concluded that learning a second language “improves proficiency in native language”, which means that you’ll become a better communicator in your native language.
7. You Gain A Second Personality
“Learn a new language and get a new soul.” – Czech proverb
Normally, the idea of someone with a split personality would carry negative connotations.
However, this isn’t the case with language learning. A 2008 study by the University of Chicago Press found that individuals who are bicultural (people who have interacted with two different cultures) and speak two languages, may shift their personalities when they switch from one language to another.
In the study, Hispanic American bilingual women students were asked to interpret target advertisements picturing women, first in Spanish and, six months later, in English.
The bilinguals perceived women in the Spanish ads as more self-sufficient and extrovert, while they identified the women in English ads as more traditional, dependent and family-oriented.
So why did the results vary?
The explanation lies in the phenomenon known as Cultural Frame Switching (CTS), where bicultural individuals shift values and attributions in the presence of “culture-relevant stimuli” ie. using a language connected to that culture.
This is backed up in a similar study whereby an assistant professor of social psychology at the University of Connecticut, asked bilingual Mexican Americans to take a personality test in both Spanish and English.
The test measured five personality traits: extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism.
It was found that bilinguals were more agreeable and conscientious when answering in English, than in Spanish – and these differences were consistent with the personality displayed in each culture.
Furthermore, in the English test, extraversion, which reflects assertiveness (prominent value in individualist cultures such as the USA) scored higher than emotional expressiveness (value emphasized in collective cultures, such as Mexico).
In the end, the author concluded that people who have internalized two cultures, such as bilinguals, may change their interpretations and values, based on the internalized cultures that respond to cues (ie. different language) in their environment.
If you still need to be convinced about the cognitive benefits of learning a second language, then watch this video from TED-Ed.