OPINION: Learn a second language

Everyone can benefit from learning a second language



Learning a second language can help with cognition and communication while giving you skills for the modern job market.


Editor’s note: this column has been updated to correct Collin Ingram’s title as a Spanish instructor, not a graduate student.

Everybody should really take on learning a second language because having that skill can help people develop an appreciation for cultures around the world.

Taking two years of Spanish during high school was more of a requirement rather than an interest.  Looking back, I wish I had taken the class more seriously and learned the content for my personal gain rather than a grade.

Learning how to speak a new language can be an intimidating task, and knowing that it will take a long time and a lot of effort is key in beginning the process. In my time taking Spanish classes, I thought that I would have a good handle on the language within two years. While I learned a lot, I got nowhere near fluent.

“It is a lot less daunting if you think about it the same as learning any other skill,” said Collin Shull, WSU Spanish instructor. “If you start out playing football, you will not be very good, but if you enjoy it and keep practicing, you will get very good.”

I did not look at learning Spanish that way when I took the courses. Being expected to learn a language felt like a huge weight dropped on my shoulders, but I was learning guitar at the same time. It might not seem like it, but the two skills are very similar skills to learn. They both begin slow, there’s a need to develop basic skills, then transition into the more proficient and advanced techniques.

“From a cultural standpoint, you cannot disengage language from culture. You can translate language, but you cannot translate culture,” said Joshua Bonzo, WSU clinical assistant professor of German. “When you truly understand a different language, you start to understand something of the psyche of the people that use that language.”

Appreciating and understanding other cultures is such an important skill to have. Even if you only know bits and pieces of a language, it can make a big difference in realizing why people talk or act a certain way.

One of my Spanish teachers would play music sung in Spanish. I had no idea what was said or what the songs were about. But by the end of the year, I was able to pick up on keywords and some short phrases and I began to comprehend a bit of the music.

Online courses such as Duolingo are great ways to supplement or kickstart learning a language along with taking a class or lessons.

The ultimate way to complete the learning of a language is to travel to a country where that language is spoken and live there for some time. Experiencing the culture and learning the relationships between how words are spoken in figures of speech and idioms are the final touches on learning a language.

Overall, everybody would benefit from learning a language. It helps people appreciate cultures, understand others, and can help boost your chances of getting a job.