Language is hugely important – it’s how we communicate ideas, how we connect with others. Unfortunately here in New Zealand we tend to be pretty close minded about languages – about 80% of our population can speak only English. That might not seem significant, but compared to overseas countries where most citizens can speak two or three languages, it’s pretty pitiful. Tucked away in our little corner of the globe, most Kiwis can’t see why they should bother learning a second language. This is an issue that is hugely important to me, so I’ve compiled a quickfire list of why everyone needs to learn a second language.

  • It’s so interesting! Really! Everyone seems to get put off by their experiences of Year 8 language classes where they spend a term learning to count to twenty, but I promise it gets better
  • It’s scientifically proven that learning a second language makes you smarter – it improves your analytical skills, your communication, and your memory
  • It also makes learning other new things easier, so you’ll do better in other subjects too
  • It actually helps you to gain a better understanding of your own language, English
    Knowing another language makes you look mega cool and sophisticated – perfect for showing off to friends and crushes alike
  • You’ll become a more open minded person. A big part of learning a second language is gaining a better understanding of another culture and realising that not everyone in the the world is the same
  • You’ll be able to talk to and connect with and make friends with millions more people all over the world
  • Contrary to popular belief, learning a new language doesn’t have to be hard or boring. What’s unique about languages is that you can learn through exposure, meaning you can spend your time watching Youtube and TV shows and still be learning
  • Languages are a great subject to take at school because apart from some vocab learning, there’s not a huge workload which is a welcome relief when things start to get busy
  • Eavesdropping on someone who doesn’t know you can understand them? Super fun.
    You can participate in school exchanges or study abroad programmes which are amazing experiences, plus school is a great time to get out and see a bit of the world before you have other burdens
  • If you do go overseas it’ll be so much easier to get by, and you’ll be able to experience the country like a local, not like a tourist
  • People often forget about Maori but it is a completely valid option for learning a second language. While it won’t help you overseas, you’ll gain a greater appreciation for your own country and culture right here in NZ
  • Knowing a second language boosts your career prospects majorly. The demand for a multilingual workforce is growing fast in our era of globalisation. Companies in so many fields like business, tourism, law, medicine, customer service, and government are looking to employ bilingual employees – so start learning if you want to keep up!
  • There’s something in it for everyone – if you love math and science you’ll love the patterns and problem solving in languages. If you love the humanities you’ll love the human interaction side of things. If you love the arts you’ll be able to discover the art of another culture in its original language
  • That moment when something in your brain clicks and you can finally hold a proper conversation in another language is priceless

Remember you don’t have to learn languages through school! There’s so many amazing resources online that there’s really no excuse for no starting to learn a second language, right now. Go. Do it.

Kate is a Year 12 student from Canterbury. She enjoys music, languages, sunny days, and a good book.

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