Learn some lingo: Being bilingual has its benefits

By Bella Whitmore | Intern

Growing up, I used to hate how one side of my family didn’t speak English. Out of frustration and a desire to blend in with the other fully American kids around me, I would always insist on speaking English instead of Portuguese with my Brazilian family. Despite this, I still managed to develop a proficiency in Portuguese fairly well, even when I wasn’t trying to. Now, as I’ve grown up and matured, I would give anything to go back to those formative years.

I look back and think about how much better I would be able to speak the language and how it would have benefited me if I hadn’t been so stubborn and had embraced the language half of my family speaks. I have realized how lucky I am to have family from around the world and have become incredibly passionate about perfecting the languages I do know and learning new ones.

In this process, I have discovered so many different cheap and accessible means for learning a language. From online class sites like iTalki and Preply to practice sites like Babbel and Duolingo, language learning has become not only attainable but also fun.

If those methods don’t work for you, there are other unconventional ways to learn a language as well, such as immersion in the form of music, movies and even YouTube videos. My personal favorite YouTube channels for this are Jo Franco and Elysse Speaks, as they show the importance of language learning and travel — all wrapped up in the form of aesthetic videos and vlogs. Plus, they both speak over five languages.

Whether or not someone grew up with a foreign language influence in their life, anyone at any stage can learn a new language with the right amount of effort.

If you need some reasoning as to why you should make learning a new language a priority in your busy schedule, there is no shortage of amazing benefits to having a bilingual brain. For example, learning a new language improves memory skills, sharpens decision-making and overall improves your IQ. For me, the biggest motivation behind learning a new language is the thought of a whole new part of the world opening up to me. Knowing Portuguese and Spanish has helped me better connect with my family as well as with strangers across the globe. I have gotten to speak to locals in their native languages and hear their unadulterated and untranslated perspectives, which is truly what it’s all been about for me.

Considering only 20% of Americans speak a foreign language, learning a new language will also help you stand out from the crowd, especially when it comes to business or travel opportunities. Adding “bilingual” to your resume will undoubtedly open up a world of doors. Plus, the hypothetical scenario of ordering a croissant in Paris or pizza in Italy and getting mistaken for a local should be pretty good motivation.

I would urge everyone, no matter how old you are or where you are in life, to pick a language you think could be fun or are passionate about and stick with it. Whether it’s learning some conversational French for your trip to France or connecting with that one relative you’ve never been able to communicate with, you truly never know how language learning could change your life for the better.

In the wise words of Elysse Speaks, “Life’s too short to live it in one language.”