Advice from the Other Side: Learning Languages

Bonjour! Joyeux Vendredi!

Why am I starting this blog post in another language, Terriers? Can you identify the language or, better yet, what it says? (We all have Google so I know that you’ll figure out that I’ve said “Hello! Happy Friday!” in French).

I studied French all through high school and college, and I actually passed a translation exam when I was in graduate school. The unfortunate news is that I had to actually look up how to say “Happy Friday” just now; I’ve completely lost my knowledge of French because I don’t practice it anymore. This makes me sad, not only because being bilingual looks great on a resume and can enhance your career, but also because research shows that knowing more than one language actually makes your brain function more effectively.

Allow me to persuade you to keep up with the foreign language that you’re learning at BU (or pick one up if you’re not studying it) so that you don’t end up like me!

It elevates your resume

Employers often find multiple language learners impressive, and part of that is because of what I’ve just said above: retaining multiple languages flexes your brain muscles and improves the way you think. If you don’t believe me, take a look at this article published in the Telegraph. Psychological studies have proven that when you have to recognize meaning in another language, you actually become more equipped to problem solve in your own language.

It improves memory

Learning a second language has also been proven to improve your memory. Think of all the grammar rules that you have to learn in an introductory language class! The more you flex that memory muscle, the better you’ll become at memorizing material for all of your classes.

It helps with your first language’s grammar

When you learn a second language, you actually come to understand your own language more clearly. This is because we often know our own language rules only intuitively. If somebody asked me to teach an English grammar class right now, I would be ill-equipped because I can’t articulate the rules: I just know them. Bilingual people are used to thinking about the grammar rules of their second language, and so they start to recognize the rules of their native language in their own writing and this makes them better writers.

Make sure that you practice your language skills outside of the classroom. The ERC has a program called Language Link where you can engage in foreign language conversations with native speakers (for all of you international students, we also have English). Check it out here and reap all of the benefits that we discussed above. Even if you’re dusting off a language from high school, it’s never too late!

Sarah Farkas blogs for Advice from the Other Side from the BU Educational Resource Center (ERC).

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