Why learn a language?

Trying to learn a language seem like a daunting challenge? Classroom experiences of chanting verb endings may well have crushed any desire you might have had of becoming multi-lingual, but with so many benefits and many fun ways to learn, maybe it’s time to reconsider.

Learning languages often takes place in the classroom, but unfortunately, this is not always the best place to learn. As a student, you may have visited a native speaking country of the language that you were learning, but properly only for a short trip. The benefit of choosing to learn as an adult is that you can dedicate longer and choose where you want to go!

Learning a language takes time, dedication and practise. It could involved you rolling your ‘r’s or feeling self conscious as native speakers look dumbfounded at your attempt engage them in conversation. It’s enough to put anyone off! Now imagine sitting in a foreign bar ordering your cocktails in another language, looking suave and sophisticated as your friends look impressed and jealous. We all love to amaze once in a while.

Aside from gaining admiration from both your friends and locals, languages can open doors and give you new insights when you are abroad. At Oyster, we love to get off the beaten track when we travel. Anne, Oyster’s animal welfare expert, is heading to Cuba in two weeks and is using her Spanish to organise accommodation in remote locations. Without Spanish, there is no way she could have set up this unique opportunity. By speaking to locals, you can learn about a country from the people who know it best. You can also develop friendships and enrich your adventure. Without language, you are forced to stick with tourist trails and this can narrow your experience.

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Some argue that learning languages makes you smarter. I certainly believe that the brain power required to switch between languages must boost your intelligence, but regardless of the science behind it, there is no denying that learning a language is tough. If you are the kind of person who is excited by a challenge, languages are the equivalent of a cognitive marathon- hard work, but a massive achievement.

Lastly, learning languages increases your employability. With trade being a global enterprise, companies are desperate for multilingual employees to help establish business links abroad. It’s worth researching countries that are in trade to find out which languages could be useful. Language benefits people looking to work in politics, business, medicine, translation- in fact, it’s surprising how often languages are required. Having the ability to speak another language is a sure way to impress your future boss!
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How can you dedicate your gap year abroad to learning a language? Easy! Go abroad and enrol in a language programme in the native speaking country. At Oyster, we sent volunteers to Brazil, Chile and paid participants to China. In each of these destinations, you will be enrolled onto a language course and you will then get to practise by working abroad. You could work in a youth centre in Brazil, a school in Chile or gain a TEFL in China. There is no better way to learn than to completely immerse yourself into the culture and to live with locals who will help you to improve.With so many languages to learn out there- it’s best to start now!

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