Learning a second language is often a roller coaster of emotion with almost everyone asking themselves the question, Is this worth it? This is all part of the learning process, if it was simple as pie, wouldn’t everyone be multilingual, of course! It is the people that push through those times, make it through the valleys and peaks and arrive at the final destination that recognize the full spectrum of benefits. There are the obvious advantages, more career opportunities, better pay and boost of competitive power, but the less obvious ones may be the ones that truly define you as a person and can possibly make your life better, the intrapsychic aspects of subconscious decisions and perceptions. Whether learning through emersion, the way children are taught their native tongue, or through the brick and mortar class room setting, learning another language can only expand your mind on a conscious and subconscious level.
I started learning Spanish at a young age in elementary school because it was a required class, looking back on it now, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity, even if back then I didn’t have the same mind set. Later, in my educational journey, I continued learning Spanish for the same reason many business majors take on a second language, it is going to set me apart from everyone else, I will have more opportunities and will be able to make more money. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Even though I had many years on Spanish, my skill set was still very elementary at the time and I wouldn’t be able to understand the psychological benefits until I somewhat understood the culture behind the language. One of the most impactful moments was when I realized that learning a language was not only about learning the words they speak, but was also about understanding the culture behind the words.
Recently, I read an interesting article out of Science Magazine that talked about how a second language can change the way a person perceives a situation in their native language, or culture. For example, German speakers often tend to focus on the beginning, middle and end points of events, whereas English speakers often focus on the action taking place. Take for example, a woman walking out of the grocery store to her parked car. A native German speaker would see this as a woman walking to her car with groceries, but the native English speaker would be more attuned to a woman walking, the action. In the article, 15 German – English bilinguals were tested with a similar situation described above. When tested in their home country and in German, they were very goal-orientated (Beginning, middle and end points), however, when tested in English in an English-speaking country in the UK with a similar group of German-English speaking people, they were very action focused similar to other English speaking people. This could be seen as a cultural difference, but the fact that both groups were native German bilinguals suggests that bilinguals can switch perspectives the same way they can switch between languages. You can find the full article at http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/03/speaking-second-language-may-change-how-you-see-world. This brings me to the intrapsychic, subconscious level of perception.
Having a different perception of the same events based on a cultural understanding can play an important subconscious role in framing one’s perception. It is like you have an alternate version in your mind and can entertain multiple perspectives and switch back and forth between them. The article uses the example of a stereo played in two speakers versus one. Each speaker plays different tones and sounds, but when both are combined, you hear the total aspects of the music. If one speaker is not working, you do not hear the full range of the music. This is similar to having multi-perceptional views, if you only have one, you could be missing out on a much larger picture. It also improves problem solving ability by opening your perceptual mind to more, thinking outside the preverbal box, to solve problems in different ways. So, when asking yourself, would my life be better if I was multilingual? Maybe think about it in a different way as well, would my life be any worse if I was multilingual?
If this has sparked an emotional response to take action and learn another language, check out Rojas Spanish Classes for more details, it has personally helped me in my journey and I know it can help you too!