The Benefits of Being Bilingual … or Multilingual!

April 29, 2014

What if all people used one language across the globe? Wouldn't communication be much easier if we all used just one universal language? Language however is not just about the words or the phrases spoken or written, it also reflects a nation's culture, traditions, beliefs and economy.

It takes great time, dedication and continued exposure to learn a foreign language, but no doubt, it is worth all the effort you put into it! It is not only fun, but it improves cognitive skills, boosts memory, and helps the brain to grow. It can also boost your cultural and economic status as well.

Billingual-MindLearning foreign languages facilitates the exposure to different cultures, and gives access to the world's literature, science and arts. It is through the interaction with other people that we can enrich our own experiences and lives. With the internet revolution and the rapid growth of social media, the world has become significantly interconnected in a way that helps bridge the cultural gaps between nations.

If you are like me, you dream of unleashing the explorer within and roaming the world to experience other cultures. If you have a fair knowledge of the languages of the countries you want to visit, or even one of the most widely spoken languages, you are sure to manage your day-to-day needs for food, accommodations and transportation. Or you can even go one step further and exchange real conversation with the country's residents and perhaps make new friends, which will definitely enrich your stay.

The same approach can be applied whether you are a tourist or acting as the host within your country. In the countries that are known tourist destinations, the need to know foreign languages and have localized maps, travel guides, brochures, etc. increases. Furthermore, in some cities you can easily find native residents who can fluently communicate using three or four foreign languages, which is an essential skill they master as they commune daily with tourists from various countries.

In the new global economy, it is almost a prerequisite for international business professionals to be bilingual. That is why most schools and colleges in Egypt and many other countries offer a curriculum that prepares students to be bi-cultural and bilingual. Language learning creates new business opportunities, especially in countries that have great potential for foreign investment. In some countries, there are dedicated colleges for teaching foreign languages; learning a second language either in schools or college is mandatory, as mastering a foreign language increases the chance to get a better job and a higher pay check.

There is no doubt that learning foreign languages can be a profitable investment. A recent article published by The Economist shows the ROI for learning a foreign language and how it affects your GDP.


Source: The Economist

According to The Economist, one's ability to speak Spanish is worth $51,000, but French, $77,000, and German, $128,000. Humans are famously bad at weighting the future against the present, but if you dangled even a post-dated $128,000 check in front of the average 14-year-old, Goethe and Schiller would be hotter than Facebook.

One study, led by James Foreman-Peck of Cardiff Business School, has estimated that lack of foreign-language proficiency in Britain costs the economy £48 billion ($80 billion), or 3.5% of GDP, each year.

Personally, I find it surprising that English is not at the top of the list. According to the research, half of the world will be speaking English by 2050, so due to the supply and demand and other economic factors the ROI for learning other foreign languages will be higher. Frank Smith was right to say that "One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way." So, are you ready to invest in learning a foreign language and if so, what language would you choose?

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Hebatullah Mahmoud Nady (Heba) is a native Arabic speaker who lives in Cairo, Egypt. She has 11 years of experience in client relations and project management, working in different industries, such as publishing, oil and gas and foremost translation and localization. Heba holds a B.A. degree in English Language and Literature from Ain Shams University, and has a great passion for language and culture. She has been actively managing many localization and translation projects for major clients since 2008 and is well versed in a wide range of localization tools and practices. Heba enjoys working with teams from different cultures and bringing people together to achieve a common goal. For her translation is a mission that contributes to enriching Arabic and other cultures and languages. In her free time, Heba likes to read about literature and management, and go site-seeing.