Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language for Students

Here’s why learning a language at university matters.

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By Barney Meekin · June 6, 2024 · 8 minute read

You always hear that there are so many benefits to learning a foreign language, but what exactly are they? Should you really be spending your time at university on foreign language learning?

In this guide, we’ll take a look at why it’s considered so helpful to learn a foreign language, why it makes sense to do it in school, and which languages you might want to consider learning if you haven’t started yet.

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Should you learn a foreign language?

To start, let’s look at some of the benefits of learning a foreign language. Here are 5 great reasons to say yes to foreign language learning.

1. To help you get hired

Speaking a second language looks great on a resume. Of course, some jobs require bilingualism, so a second language can be necessary to even get in the door for those jobs. But, even where it’s not required, speaking a second language shows that you can work hard to dedicate yourself to learning a new skill – plus, you never know when it might come in handy for your future employers.

2. To help you get promoted

In today’s world of online work, many companies have employees and offices around the globe. When big companies expand into new markets, it’s a huge bonus to have someone who both knows the company and speaks the language. When you speak a second language, you can make yourself invaluable in those markets and better connect with international co-workers. (Check out our article on the best languages to learn for business to help you choose the language to learn)

3. To keep your options open

It’s much easier to work and study abroad when you can speak a second language! Whether you hope to someday study in Paris or teach English in Seoul, if you already have experience with the local language, getting started in a new country or city will be much easier, from finding an apartment and getting a job to making friends and immersing yourself in the culture. Our article on 6 jobs for language lovers can give you an idea of which career you can possibly take on if you know a foreign language.

4. To expand your experience of the world

Learning a new language can help your career, of course, but it’s also a valuable experience for you as a person. Learning a foreign language can connect you to new people and places you never otherwise would have been able to get to know. It can change your perspective and improve your life at home and abroad.

5. To sharpen your mind

If all that hasn’t convinced you, get this – studies show that speaking a second language can help you think more creatively and even delay the onset of dementia later in life. It can expand your vocabulary and even help you better understand English grammar. In short? It’s a great workout for your mind.

So, why is it important to learn a foreign language? Because it can boost your career and enrich your life. But which language should you learn, and when? Let’s take a closer look.

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Why learn a language in school?

While there’s no wrong age to start learning a language, if you want to reach fluency, experts agree it’s the sooner the better for getting started.

See, students have a leg up because they can learn in school, which sets stricter goal posts and schedules than adults typically have for self-led learning. You can dedicate more time to getting further, and there are fewer obstacles to spending time learning. Plus, school-based language learning often gives you more practical experience than some of the online programs. (Of course, on Busuu, you get practice speaking out loud and can connect with native speakers, but that’s not true of all language- learning apps!)

Younger people also typically have a bit more free time in general, and an aptitude for getting further in their studies, so if the aim is to reach fluency or near-fluency, starting learning at a younger age can be a leg up.

Some have even asked, “Should students be required to learn a foreign language in school?” That’s because the benefits to learning are so great and it becomes so much trickier to make progress on your own once you’re working full-time.

That said, when you learn with Busuu – whether you use it as a study tool or to learn a language outside of school – you can set a study plan to help you meet your goals like you would have for a class.

Which language should you learn?

Now you know why you should learn a language and why it’s better to get started sooner rather than later, all that’s left is to pick which foreign language to learn.

That decision comes down to you! Should you choose the easiest foreign language to learn? The best language to learn for your career?

Everyone’s different, but you might want to consider what’s offered at your school, the easiest languages and hardest languages to learn, the languages most useful for doing business around the world, and the most spoken languages in the world.

It’ll depend on your field of study, interests, and school options, but here are a few languages to consider:

Mandarin Chinese

Though one of the hardest languages to learn, there are many benefits to learning Mandarin Chinese. It’s the second most spoken language in the world after English and the most common native language and is useful beyond just China. Chinese is an important language for international trade and business since it’s frequently used as a lingua franca in other parts of Asia outside of China.

Spanish

The fourth most spoken language in the world, the official language of 20 countries, and the second most spoken language in the United States with over 40 million speakers in the US alone, Spanish also happens to be considered one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn.

Arabic

Another widely spoken language, Arabic is spoken by roughly 300 million people in over 22 countries and is a must for those interested in North Africa and the Middle East. Plus, learning it can give you a leg up in understanding Persian, Hebrew, Turkish, and Farsi and open up the culture and religious texts of the Islamic world.

French

You might be surprised to learn that, with 280 million speakers, French is the 5th most spoken language in the world, with areas of native speakers in Europe, Canada, Africa, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. Whether you want the option to move to Canada, where speaking French can help you get a job even in English-speaking areas, or are just planning a post-grad vacation in Bora Bora, French can come in handy.

German

German is a helpful language for those hoping to do business in Europe or majoring in a scientific or philosophical field. Many great scientists and thinkers worked and wrote in German, from Kant to Einstein. So if you want an easier time understanding niche scientific terminology, German might be the language for you.

And that’s everything you need to know about learning a language at university

The reality is, there’s no wrong choice when you choose to learn a language, whether you decide to tackle Japanese to better understand anime or focus on Italian for the food.

Learn the language that works for you – and the good news is, you can use Busuu to boost your studies, tackle another language, or stay sharp after school ends.

In fact, you could start learning on Busuu right now to make sure the language you’re thinking about is the right one for you!

Start your exciting journey to learning a new language!

Busuu is here to guide you on the road to success! With over 14 languages to choose from, free online lessons and learning resources, you can be well on your way to a brighter future with Busuu starting today!