Why You Should Learn a Second Language

Marc and me

Talking to my friend Marc from Geneva, Switzerland, I realized how different the idea of second languages is in Europe vs North America.

We learned French in school, and most people never stuck with it after it stopped being mandatory. He learned French, English, High German, Swiss German and Arabic. This blew my mind.

I’ve always found languages really interesting. Being able to learn new cultures and communicate with people while travelling always appealed to me. But it wasn’t until I was taking university-level French and Spanish classes that I realized how important knowing a second language is — and why I think that everyone should take at least one language course during their university career.

When you take a language class you get to learn about other cultures. I’ve had profs from all over the world teaching me about their holidays, movies, music, where to get the best food from their home country in Victoria and more. You can’t always get this from other classes.

My graduating class at the International School of French at the University of Quebec at Trois Rivières last summer.

You can also meet new people who speak that language. I have met so many people in the French and Spanish departments as well as people I’ve met well travelling that I would have never known if I wasn’t able to speak a common language with them. 

The French and Spanish departments, as well as other language departments at UVic, have so many fun events during the year.

They run movie nights, wine and cheese parties, board game socials, and events when you can meet the professors in the department and learn about their work. It’s so much fun going to these events and practicing your language skills. 

In language classes, you learn so much other than just the language. In my classes, we had units on food, women’s rights, global warming, immigration, linguistics, music, the arts, etc. It’s not always about just the language.

You can have secret conversations with other people who speak the language. I love speaking French with one of my coworkers. It has brought us so much closer together as we share this one aspect of our lives. And it helps so much with my spoken French to practice with him.

Research has shown that people who are bilingual are better problem solvers. Learning a second language opens up new pathways in the brain which creates a better executive function.

This command system is responsible for planning, solving problems, and avoiding distractions. Also, knowing multiple languages is shown to slow dementia and memory loss in old age.

A second language also looks great on a résumé. Two-thirds of the world’s population speaks more than one language so only knowing one puts you at a major disadvantage in the job market.

Overall, language classes are fun! Whether you study the language at UVic or on your own time you’ll learn so many new things and meet so many new people it makes all the hard work worth it.

So next time your register for your courses, take a look at the language classes UVic offers and take a deep dive into a language and culture you’ll never forget.

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