Ask anyone who speaks even a shred of another language and we guarantee the answer will be unanimous: NO, bilingualism is not all hype! While there are advantages and disadvantages of having any skill, being able to speak a second language hardly ever falls into the negative category. After all, no one has ever gotten fired or been dumped for speaking too many languages!
Whether it be for social or professional reasons (or both!), there are so many motivators for learning a new language, and the benefits of being bilingual far outweigh any disadvantages of being bilingual. So what are you waiting for? Start picking up another language today!
Is bilingualism all it’s cracked up to be?
Si, Oui, 是, Ja! However you prefer to say it, bilingualism is definitely more than it’s cracked up to be! Is there anything cooler than being able to whip out another language when people least expect it? No, there isn’t! Being bilingual makes you seem smarter, experienced, skilled, worldly, and even sexier. Yeah, we said it. Why wouldn’t you want to learn a second language?
Social benefits of being bilingual
Being bilingual means talking is twice as easy, right? Time to make tons of new friends! Everyone needs some non-English speakers in their friend group to spice things up a bit in our English-dominating world, so diversify your social circle by being able to actually speak to potential friends. Everyone loves someone who talks to them in their native tongue, so next time you’re at a salsa club and wanting to make friends with the group on the dance floor who’s clearly running the show, approaching them en español will (literally) start your new friendship off on the right foot!
Making friends is always sweet, but you know what’s an even more positive effect of being bilingual? LOVE! Not only can you become even more of a social butterfly by having language skills, but you might even impress a new hottie! Studies have shown that being bilingual always leads to an improved love life (no they haven’t but a girl can dream), so time to put yourself out there! Maybe you’ll fall for someone you otherwise wouldn’t have even had a chance to get to know due to language barriers. You never know what will make someone swipe right on you until you try!
Career benefits of being bilingual
The only thing better than scoring a bilingual date is scoring a bilingual job! There are so many ways to build a career around language skills that it’s amazing more people don’t jump on them. The most obvious bilingual career path is translation, and a career in translation is so much more than just repeating word-for-word what someone else says...it’s helping people solve problems and enable communication and connections where it otherwise would have failed. Pretty powerful! Beyond translation, bilingual peeps can build careers in government work or foreign affairs, writing, education, or travel and hospitality, to name a few!
For those who don’t necessarily want to build a new career around their language skills, just having them will give you a huge advantage in your current career. Maybe you don’t want to work in translation and be constantly talking in a language that’s not yours - and that’s fine. Use your bilingualism to improve your non-language based job and open up a whole world of opportunities! Communicate with customers in their native language for better customer service, increase your customer base by translating your company’s website, or get further in your career by speaking the native language of your coworkers/subordinates/managers. Whether or not you use your language skills on a daily basis at work, simply having them makes you an asset, and you never know when this skill will have a positive effect!
[Save and compare language study abroad programs side-by-side with MyGoAbroad]
Personal benefits of being bilingual
In an ever growing world with constant increases in tourism and trade, you never know when being able to speak another language is going to help you out. Maybe you’re eating at a Japanese restaurant and need to convey a dietary need, but your waitress doesn’t understand what the word “Celiac’s” means. Simply saying “no bread” is not going to cut it when you’re gluten-free out of necessity and not trendiness. The same thing goes for personal safety and other health-related issues...you never know when your language skills will come in handy!
Another personal reason to become bilingual is the familial benefit. If one of your parents is not a native English speaker or you have other relatives from a different country, this is a definite way to get closer to them. Even if you’re all native English speakers, maybe there are religious or cultural reasons within your family to learn another language. Perhaps your family is Muslim and you want to learn Arabic to be closer to your religion and make the Hajj to Mecca easier. Whatever the reason, there are never negative effects of being bilingual!
Other benefits of being bilingual
Probably the biggest “extra” benefit to being bilingual comes in the comfort of travel. It’s no secret that exploring far-off corners of the world becomes exponentially easier when you speak the language of the place you’re traveling to. Chances are if you’re interested in learning another language then you’re probably also very interested in travel, so become bilingual to make your travels a breeze!
Beyond this, there are some legit intellectual benefits to being bilingual. Studies have really shown that learning another language can have many types of positive effects on your brain, so there are even scientific benefits to being bilingual! Want to become better at multitasking, for example? Study another language and your brain will pick up multitasking for you! So many positive effects of being bilingual!
[The World’s Best Countries for Foreign Language Study in 2018—GoAbroad Report]
What are the disadvantages of being bilingual?
It’s not all roses...or is it? There aren’t many real negatives of being bilingual, but a couple minor disadvantages of bilingualism are worth mentioning. If you speak another language, be prepared to hear things that you wished you hadn’t...and no, we don’t mean those foreign language voices in your head...all travelers hear those! Being in an English-dominating world means that people from other countries often just assume that English speakers don’t speak anything else, which can put you in an awkward situation when you understand something that someone thought you wouldn’t. We promise that “Surprise! I Speak Your Language” will become your new favorite game.
All jokes aside, the only legitimate disadvantage to being bilingual is that your brain can get confused about which language to think or do things in. It sounds crazy that your brain could “forget” the natural state it existed in for your entire life up until now, but we swear that as soon as you bring another language into the picture, your brain will sort of go haywire. Get used to having a lot of “tip of the tongue” moments as your brain sorts through its bilingual library of vocabulary. Talk to any person who speaks more than one language and they will most likely tell you that they forget words in their native language way more often than words in their second language. Don’t ask us why—we ain’t scientists—but just know that it’ll happen to you and it’ll be awkward. People will think you’re dumb. Whatevs. You’re actually smarter than them because you know a foreign language.
Which language should I learn?
Generally speaking, Spanish, French, and German are the most popular secondary languages to learn for native English-speakers. If you want to live and work abroad, you might consider picking up Mandarin, Arabic, Russian, or another critical language that will help you score an awesome gig. Don’t let these ideas limit you - if you know you want to live in a certain area, then hop right on the language-learning train for the dominant dialect of that region. There are serious benefits to being bilingual with any language!
Additional resources for bilingual-bound language learners
Still not totally sold? That’s ok, we’ll let the rest of our language pros convince you! Check out the below links to read more about the benefits of being bilingual, and be sure to use the MyGoAbroad tool to read language program reviews and our OnlineAdvisor tool to get matched with your dream program!
Resources for why you should become bilingual:
- How language immersion programs will help you survive the apocalypse
- Languages that will get you hired and where you should learn them
- 8 #hireme critical foreign languages to learn abroad
Resources for how to become bilingual:
- 10 best ways to learn a new language
- Serious about fluency? Choose intensive language programs
- Language immersion programs abroad: facts and tricks of the trade
- Top notch language courses for (almost) every language
Now you’re ready to stop dreaming about learning a new language and start practicing your conjugations.
Because two is always better than one
At the absolute least, being bilingual will allow you to talk to more people. Simple as that. If you get no other benefits from being bilingual (which we highly doubt), you will always have that. Unless you’re Raven, none of us knows what the future holds for us, so why not pick up a new skill and ensure both your professional and personal lives are as fruitful and exciting as you want them to be? Being able to communicate well is a super underrated skill that can get you ahead in all aspects of life, so learn a second language today to take your chats to new heights!