In today’s world, interconnectedness between people and societies around the globe has reached an unparalleled level, and with it has come a constant need to be able to communicate and understand one another beyond boundaries that separate us, with one of the strongest being language barriers. As a result, the importance of multilingualism has come into focus and a closer look demonstrates the numerous advantages of speaking multiple languages. From improvement in basic communication ability to major health benefits, it turns out language acquisition might just be one of the best things you can do for yourself.


For starters, being multilingual can be a huge asset when it comes to your professional opportunities. Globalization has made it so that a huge number of companies engage in international business, and the ability to communicate in more than a single language and understand people on a cultural level can prove to be an indispensable qualification. Speaking multiple languages can lead to a higher salary, as well, with multilingual individuals in certain fields making between 5 and 20 percent more than their monolingual counterparts.


Multilingualism also becomes a huge benefit when it comes to travelling, from studying abroad to taking trips for pleasure. With many of us possessing a constant desire to go out and explore the world firsthand, multilingualism enhances social interaction in international settings, not only by giving travelers more confidence when communicating, but also by providing them with an important tool for gaining a deeper understanding of other cultures and societies. Across the world, the way people use language – such as the expressions they use – can say a lot about their values, traditions, and perspective, and by learning a new language, we gain the ability to see the world through a new lens.


Interestingly, multilingualism also comes with the added benefits of improving cognitive function and even preventing certain diseases. For example, people who speak multiple languages have demonstrated a stronger ability to deal with distractions, stronger memories, and better problem-solving skills than monolingual individuals. Speaking more than one language has also been linked to preventing Alzheimer’s disease.


Over half of the world’s population is actually proficient in two or more languages, but even with that being the case, only 17 percent of Americans are multilingual. The common idea here is that English has more or less become a universal language, and with ideas around language resting on the notion that its main purpose is to facilitate communication, it seems to become unnecessary for anyone whose first language is English to invest effort and resources into learning a second language.


But what about beyond simply talking to others? English may help us interact with other English speakers, but how does it contribute to our understanding of these interactions and ideas that we share through communication? Understanding multiple languages is ultimately the first step to understanding people and understanding issues in different ways, and when we see this value of multilingualism beyond just talking to one another, we can see that language acquisition for any individual is unquestionably worth investing in.


Perhaps the best thing about multilingualism is that it’s never too late to pursue learning a new language, and there are plenty of methods available, whether it’s a local language class, finding a penpal or online companion, foreign films and music, instructional videos on YouTube, or travel abroad through which you can immerse yourself in a new culture and learn through exposure. The resources for learning a language are endless, as are the doors that a new language could open for you.


How valuable do you think it is to be multilingual in today’s world? In what other ways do you think speaking more than one language can be beneficial? Share your thoughts in the comments below or tweet me @tamarahoumi