I know what you may be thinking - Nicole, I might not be able to travel safely in 2022, so why should I bother learning a language I won't be able to use?

I completely understand that. Luckily, there are many other ways you can use a foreign language outside of travel 😎

It's good for your brain.

Learning a foreign language has been shown to delay dementia, improve overall cognitive function, and even improve decision-making. Bilingual brains have also been shown to be better at multi-tasking, since they are constantly regulating which language should be used and which language needs to be on the backburner. There have been many interesting articles written and studies done on this subject, so I will link a few here:

Thinking in a foreign language helps economic decision-making

Cognitive Benefits of Language Learning (a bit of a long read)

Benefits of Bilingualism

We have more time than ever before.

With a large majority of the world stuck at home, we have all found ourselves with more time than we would have otherwise wanted. The time is going to pass anyways, so why not spend 30-60 minutes a day studying a foreign language? 😇

It will teach you self-discipline.

Many people "wait for motivation" to do something (myself included), when really what they're lacking is self-discipline. Even our favorite activities will seem unappealing at one time or another, but what keeps us going is not some 🎇magical motivation🎇, but rather the promise we made to ourselves to keep going.

If I had a dollar for every time I thought about quitting Chinese, I'd be in retirement right about now. Writing the same character over and over (and quickly forgetting it), being embarrassed in class, and trying to distinguish between a 2nd and 3rd tone were all grounds for quitting. Yet, I've continued to learn it since I first started in 2016, and what keeps me going are all the beautiful things that have come into my life through studying it. This leads me to the next point.

It can bring incredible people into your life.

Some of my absolute best friends from college are Chinese, and I genuinely wouldn't have enjoyed my college experience even half as much without them. We became friends because I made an effort to meet native Chinese speakers, and they were eager to teach me about their language and culture. If I ever need someone to talk to or any kind of help, I know I can always count on them. If I hadn't decided to study Chinese on a whim, we never would have met!

It will allow you to enjoy more types of media in their original form.

What do I mean by this? Well, sometimes there are words and phrases that are impossible to directly translate, but when you know a foreign language, you can understand the true essence of what is being said. This is why some people choose to learn a foreign a language - they want to read Crime and Punishment as it was written in Russian, watch an Italian opera as it was originally performed, or listen to their favorite Korean pop artists without translations.

It makes you more aware of how other people around the world live.

Once when asked by an older lady what my time in China was like, I could tell by her words that she assumed China was still underdeveloped, full of cold, gray concrete buildings, with limited access to knowledge from 'the outside world.' I can't entirely blame her, as that's what quite a few people may also believe.

When you learn a foreign language, you get a glimpse into how other people live through the words and phrases they commonly use, and by visiting the country where the language is spoken. You also begin to look at your country differently, and you appreciate certain aspects more (and realize how bad some others are - I'm looking at you, American healthcare system).

Now that I've convinced you, how can you get started? 🤔

  1. Choose a language - This is the hardest step and yet the most fun. People get stuck on choosing a language that will be "useful," but the truth is that any language can be useful if you put yourself in the position to make it useful. If you don't have any personal connections to a language (family heritage, significant other, etc.), and you don't need a foreign language for work or future career goals, it might be a little harder to decide. Go on YouTube, and listen to a few languages. Whichever one stands out to you the most, consider choosing that one. If you need extra help, check out the r/language learning subreddit for inspiration and maybe some guidance. I also highly recommend this YouTube channel for language learning advice and inspiration.
  2. Figure out a study plan - If you can't take a college course, consider finding a tutor on italki, an online language learning platform where you can find professional teachers and community tutors. I've been tutoring on italki for over two years and have been taking lessons myself. I highly recommend it for people that are looking for someone to guide them, and anyone else who needs speaking practice.

That's it! If you've read this far, thanks for reading & I wish you good luck with your language learning journey 😊.