Being a language grad, I’m all about learning to speak in a new tongue. I mean, I have a qualification in it, I must at least be somewhat of an expert, right? Whilst I spent a number of years studying Italian and Spanish at university, learning a new language is something that could also easily be a fun summer activity. It’s an awesome way to keep your brain active whilst you’re not in school or college and is something you can continue to focus on as a hobby when summer ends too. Let’s be realistic for a sec – no, you’re not going to become fluent in French or proficient in Portuguese over the summer, but that shouldn’t, in any way, put you off. There are a multitude of reasons why learning a language is an awesome idea and here are, in my humble opinion, the top ones:
- It’s an awesome skill to have on your resume: From a totally practical (and kinda boring) standpoint, having at least a basic knowledge of a language besides your mother tongue is a hugely invaluable skill to stick on your resume. It can set you apart from the rest; for example, if you’re applying for a position with a German car company and you have basic German language skills, it’s likely that you’ll be favoured over your peers who, otherwise, may have the same skill set as you. Languages can come in handy in such a wide variety of jobs and you never know how far even the most basic of proficiencies can take you. Suppose your future employer wants to expand into Italy and you spent a summer learning Italian. Ciao Roma and hello amazing opportunity!
- It doesn’t strictly require formal teaching: Ok, I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, considering I paid a ton of cash and spent a lot of time getting a formal qualification from a pretty good institution, but learning a language isn’t solely dependent on you attending actual classes. Yes, I’d like to think that my money and time was well-spent, but there have been stages over the course of my language-learning journey whereby I’ve had to straight up teach myself, and you know what? It can totally be done! Invest in a grammar book, download Duolingo, visit www.mylanguageexchange.com and find a good dictionary (a personal favourite is www.wordreference.com). As long as you use good sources, self-taught language learning doesn’t have to be a complete minefield.
- There’s never an end point to your knowledge: this may, at first, seem a little off-putting, but hear me out. Whilst my degree should be a marker of fluency, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ve stopped learning. Sure, I can talk with confidence and I have a solid understanding of grammar, but there are still plenty of things about both Spanish and Italian that I don’t know and could learn in the future. Language (and I mean any language) is brilliant in that it’s always evolving and changing, and with that comes the opportunity to continue to learn and develop your skill. It’s basically an activity that will always keep you on your toes.
- You don’t just learn a language, you learn a culture: This is really the best reason of all. So much of language learning, especially if you’re self-teaching, comes from exposing yourself to the cultures that the language belongs to. Learning a language without also learning about its corresponding cultures would be like learning the theory of driving a car, but never actually getting into a car and taking it out on the road. There isn’t one negative to educating yourself about foreign cultures. Each one has a rich tapestry of history, practices and people that are, oftentimes, totally different from your own. Learning Spanish and Italian has introduced me to musicians, films and television shows I never would have found otherwise and has introduced me to so many wonderful people and places I never thought I’d be able to meet and see. It’s allowed me to be a more empathetic and open-minded person and it’s helped me to develop my communication skills, not only in the sense of being able to communicate with more people, but in being able to communicate better with people that, culturally, are not like myself. That, quite simply, is priceless.
For related articles, check out How to Prepare for a Semester Abroad, 10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Summer Vacation, 5 Ways to Keep Your Mind Stimulated This Summer and How to Keep Your Extracurriculars Going During the Summer.