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The benefits of being multilingual today

The benefits of being multilingual today

There are reportedly only three percent of people around the world who can speak four languages or more. Polyglots — those who can fluently speak multiple languages — are invaluable in today’s globalized world. 

With technology in our pockets that allows us to tap into almost every language in the world, you may be wondering about the true value of mastering multiple languages. Well, for one thing, AI may be able to translate words directly, but it can’t communicate with empathy, nuance, and cultural understanding in the way humans can.

Becoming multilingual offers benefits that extend far beyond just language proficiency. Keep reading to understand just how far-reaching the benefits of being multilingual are in today’s connected world.

Improved job opportunities

With business conducted across borders, there is an increasing demand for those who speak multiple languages, so being multilingual can lead to career opportunities or advancement. It could also lead to international transfers, where you could experience life as an expat.  

Consider jobs in the travel industry such as flight attendant or tour guide, careers in international business or diplomacy, or linguistic roles such as a teacher, translator, or tutor, being proficient in multiple languages can significantly enhance your career prospects and your salary. A recent study found that employees who speak multiple languages earn an average of 19% more than employees who only speak one language.

And of course, the burgeoning sector of computational linguistics. As well as languages, this career will need programming and maths skills as you work on improving machine translation, creating chatbots, improving computerized assistants, and speech recognition. 

You’re more powerful than AI

You’ve probably seen videos of travelers ordering at a restaurant via Google Translate. Or the grandchildren speaking to their grandparents through AI as they try to perfect a family recipe. Perhaps you’ve even been in this situation before.

What a world we live in, where we can chat with someone in almost any language through our phone. However, while this huge technological advancement can help us communicate across borders, what it can’t do is bring understanding to these interactions.

To truly understand another culture, see things from another perspective, or empathize with someone, we need to immerse ourselves in their experiences. Estimating the precise value of a more interconnected world is challenging. Yet, it's evident that addressing global issues requires heightened levels of international solidarity and cooperation.

While technology has bridged many gaps, for now, people can only build true understanding when they speak the same language, hence the need for polyglots in today’s connected world. 

Boost your brain

Research suggests that learning and using multiple languages can boost cognitive function. Ever sat in a 3-hour language class? Or spent an evening conversing in a foreign language? You’re probably pretty exhausted afterward. That’s because language learning is a mental workout. It fine-tunes our thinking, allows us to multitask, and flexes our understanding in terms of cultural awareness. 

This means polyglots can have better social connection skills, logic, memory, problem-solving, and multitasking skills. All of which can contribute to delaying cognitive decline in later life.

Experience personal satisfaction

The sense of personal pride and satisfaction you get from speaking another language is hard to find elsewhere as an adult. And once you’ve experienced that feeling, it becomes quite addictive.

Learning a second foreign language is easier than the first time, as you know which learning style works best for you, and how your brain works. And once you’ve started flexing that language-learning muscle, it’s much easier to keep working on it.

Travel and connect

Whether you want to discover the best secret surfing spots in California, or simply communicate with everyone in Switzerland (which has four official languages), having multiple languages in your arsenal will enrich your travel experiences immensely. 

From chatting to elderly neighbors and bargaining for vintage pieces at flea markets to understanding foreign films and discovering local hidden gems — speaking multiple languages allows you to immerse yourself fully in the local culture.

As Alex Rawlings, an English polyglot who speaks 15 languages said,  “Languages are an asset for whatever you want to do in life. They open your mind to worlds you never knew were there. They introduce you to amazing people that you might otherwise have just walked by.” 

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