Bilingual benefits

Learning foreign language boosts communication skills, employability


Photo by Hannah McElhiney

A woman speaks in several different languages. Texas High offers various languages other than English.

Story by Kamryn Jean, Staff Writer

With a variety of cultures already occupying the United States, not to mention all of the foreign cultures we have yet to experience but understand, learning a new language is vital. Language learning brings people from all around the world together. It is unfair to expect others to conform to our monolingualism.

If job opportunities and financial benefits are what someone is searching for, then being multilingual will help them tremendously. Bilingual professionals earn more money on average in the United States because there is such a high demand for these individuals, especially in areas with large immigrant populations. 

Multilingual individuals can also find jobs overseas because of their ability to communication skills. Employers in foreign nations often look for this skill because a person with the ability to communicate in another language has a better intercultural understanding. 

French teacher, Parker Wright, has had the opportunity to study abroad and teach English in France. He describes how the immersion drastically improved his understanding of the language.

“I was accepted to teach in France for a year where I would be teaching English to high school aged kids in the city of Coutances, Normandy.” Wright said. “Ultimately, it caused the largest growth I have seen in my French ability and without it, I would not be able to teach here at Texas High today.”

Languages have the incredible ability to unite people. Spanish teacher, Jan Berrios, uses his Spanish to help him connect with people while traveling as well as improve his understanding of the English language. 

“I always thought Italian would be an interesting language to learn, and when I went to Italy, I spoke to them in Spanish and they spoke to me in Italian,” said Berrios. “We were actually able to communicate pretty well.”

Grammar is infamous for being a dreaded aspect of learning a language, but it can improve standardized test scores and aid one in understanding their native language better.

Latin and English teacher, Kara Wicks, fell in love with Latin in high school because it introduced her to  many ancient writers and thinkers. Now, she advocates for students to learn this “dead” language so they can reap the benefits, like she did.

“Because Latin helps you master grammar, it helps writing and reading complex sentences, which makes classes, tests, and real-life situations easier,” Wicks said. “It expands your  vocabulary and helps you decode words.”

In America, about 23% of people grow up in bilingual households. For ASL teacher, Melissa Latham, she had the inspiration to learn a new language from someone very special in her life.

“I’ve known sign language my whole life,” Latham said. “My sister, who is deaf, has been my inspiration.”

As one gains a better understanding of their new language and its structure, they will soon be able to switch between their native language and their second language, commonly known as code-switching in linguistics. For those who grew up speaking one language at home and another language at school, code-switching is very natural. They have adapted the ability to go between two languages with different structures, grammar rules, and vocabulary.

Studies have shown that bilingual and multilingual individuals are better at multitasking than their monolingual counterparts. “[Bilingual children] have an aptitude for selective attention,” Dr Fraser Lauchlan, a lecturer at Strathclyde’s school of psychological science, said.                                                                                                                                         

Most students are unmotivated to learn a new language because it is such a time consuming task, especially when vocabulary, grammar, and difficult pronunciation is being considered. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to learn a new language, but there are many benefits that come with it.

“I believe [that acquiring more than one language] improves intangible qualities like compassion and empathy,” Wright said. “It gave me a newfound respect for all teachers, students, workers, and immigrants who come to America without knowing English.”