Why Language Learning Should Be Your Top Resolution This Year
New Year’s resolutions. Who even makes them?
Perhaps it’s true that starry-eyed goal-setting, enhanced by the fanfare of fireworks and booze, is for overly earnest dorks who got straight A’s in every subject and are now thirsty for even loftier personal development milestones.
Perhaps it’s also true that New Year’s resolutions are a form of passing the buck, of tricking yourself into feeling really good about what you’re never going to seriously attempt. After all, why wait until Jan. 1? If you were really serious about unseating your local bar’s pun tournament heavyweight, you would have at least started brushing up on your dad jokes by now.
Nevertheless, we here at Babbel have a bold claim to make, and it’s that language learning is the ideal resolution. For one, it’s probably more realistic (and sustainable) than striving to lose weight. It’s also more honest than “being nicer to your in-laws.” Beyond that, language learning comes with innumerable fun side effects that can actually tie into your other resolutions, like traveling or exercising more (really!).
Let us explain.
It’s challenging enough to be exciting, and possible enough to attain. Most people who resist language learning hesitate because they’re under the faulty assumption that they don’t have the time. For one, it’s actually more effective to study in manageable, 10 to 15 minute chunks each day than it is to bludgeon your brain for five hours once a week. Even better news: Babbel’s language-learning app allows you to knock out your lessons on the fly. Here’s an entire list of idle times in your day you could dedicate to learning on your phone.
It changes your entire mental outlook — and even your brain chemistry. Studies have suggested that language learning can prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s, improve your memory, boost your focus, and provide many other mental enhancements that can help you achieve the goals on your list. If nothing else, it’ll make you happier. Learning new vocab activates the reward center of your brain, which means language learning is basically the same thing as eating cake. How’s that for a New Year’s diet hack?
It can help you nail that dream job (or a raise). The majority of the U.S. population speaks only English. Language skills can help set you apart, and in many cases, be required for certain positions. Having foreign language skills will significantly increase your chances of landing jobs that involve travel (think: flight attendant, diplomat, journalist, English teacher abroad — you get the idea). It’s also an important skill for people like nurses and UN interpreters. What’s more, The Economist estimates that people who speak more than one language can earn anywhere from an extra $67,000 to an extra $128,000 over their lifetime. Language expert and Bric Languge Systems CEO Ryan McMunn estimates that learning another language can boost your salary by 10 to 15 percent.
It’s sort of a natural tie-in to your travel goals. You know the bit about experiences being worth more than things. It sort of goes without saying that you’ll have a much richer experience if you can converse with the locals when you’re traveling — and potentially wind up in way more interesting, off-the-beaten-path locations. Not only that — it can help you save money by avoiding tourist traps. Here are a few ways you miss out when you don’t speak the local language.
Learning a language is not about self-denial, unlike weight loss and quitting [insert your vice here]. Again, it’s not that other New Year’s resolutions are bad goals, but science supports the notion that humans are pretty crappy at exerting willpower over long periods of time, which is why millions of well-intentioned people have set themselves up to fail with unnatural, punishing diets and cold-turkey quitting goals. If you’re trying to quit smoking, by all means, keep going! But give yourself something nice to strive for as well (and potentially distract you from your cravings). That way, you won’t spend the whole year talking about what you “can’t” have or do. Besides, you can probably kill two birds with one stone. Doubling up on exercising and language-learning can actually aid your memory recall.
Perhaps it’ll even help you fall in love. According to dating site PlentyOfFish, knowing another language raises your odds of scoring a date online. Babbel surveyed 3,000 English-speaking people from the US and UK, and we found that 71 percent of Americans think multilingualism is sexy. If nothing else, do it for the babes.