Five benefits of learning a second language

With English as one of the most spoken languages in the world, learning a second language has become less of a priority for native English speakers. While English speakers can generally get by in many non-English speaking countries, there are many benefits of learning a second language. In fact, learning a second language from early childhood is known to have a number of emotional, social and cognitive advantages.

School-aged children’s brains are still developing and so they are more receptive to learning new skills. The brain of a child is designed to rapidly absorb new information without having to think about it. A UCLA study found that the brain systems that specialise in learning new languages experience rapid growth from the age of six years old until puberty. So learning a new language at school is very advantageous.

Language learning helps us to broaden personal, social, cultural and employment opportunities as well as providing some long-lasting benefits. When a student can be exposed to new cultures, new ideas and new methods of thinking it stimulates their curiosity in a unique way. It can help students gain a better understanding of other cultures’ values and attitudes, whilst also informing their own. More than 240 languages and dialects are spoken in Western Australia today. At Guildford Grammar School alone there are staff members who speak Arabic, Dutch, German, Zulu, Afrikaans, French, Croatian, Spanish, Japanese, Latin, Indonesian, Malay, Chinese and Welsh! This is reflective of our wider community and the multiculturalism we experience today. By familiarising students with other cultures and ideas they hadn’t considered, they take on a new world perspective. 

While there are many benefits to learning a second language, here are our top five:

  • Useful when travelling
    Knowing how to speak more than one language comes in handy when travelling. Planning a holiday is also a great incentive to learn or practice a new language!
  • Improves attention levels and multi-tasking
    It is generally understood that people who speak more than one language are better at task-switching and generally have a higher level of attention. This is because bilingual speakers are required to constantly manage their attention on the appropriate language. It is thought that this process is likely carried out by the executive function of the brain, the same system used for multi-tasking.
  • Improves conflict resolution skills
    Research also shows that multilingual people often perform better in tasks that require conflict resolution. People who speak more than one language are thought to have greater cognitive control function, allowing them to draw on an enhanced vocabulary when in conflict situations.
  • Looks great on your resume
    Speaking more than one language is a valuable skill in the workplace. It also illustrates to employers that you have the motivation and commitment needed to learn a second language.
  • It keeps our brains active for longer
    Research shows that bilingualism is protecting the brains of older adults by as much as four years. The mental workout involved in keeping languages separate seems to have lifelong benefits.

As part of our Catalyst middle years curriculum, Year 7 students are required to study one core second language, selecting from Chinese or French. From Years 8 to 12 students can choose to continue their study of languages. You can learn more about our language offerings by downloading our Catalyst Handbook or our Year 11 Course Selection handbook.