Countless foreign languages are spoken all over the world. Of course, the most commonly spoken language in the United States is English, with 82 per cent of the population speaking English as their native language. English is the common language of business and everyday life. Close behind English as the second most popular language in the United States is Spanish. Approximately 12 per cent of Americans speak Spanish as either their first or second language.
However, on the whole, Americans do not speak enough foreign languages. Approximately 370 million people speak English as their native language; whereas, approximately 1.5 billion people all over the globe speak English as a second language. English speakers are focused in the business and tourism industries, so Americans can usually get by. But in an increasingly globalized world, learning to speak a foreign language can take your connections to a higher level.
The benefits of learning a foreign language
There are a lot of advantages to be gained by being able to read and converse in a foreign language, both practical and fun. From a more practical perspective, it is quite important to know how to deal with others in their own language so you can network with people from all over the world. From a more fun perspective, whole new cultural worlds are opened up to you when you learn a foreign language. After all, learning the foreign language that underpins a foreign culture is often the only way to truly experience what it is like to be a part of that culture.
It is obvious that learning a foreign language can be an amazing, and challenging, experience. The challenge is what makes it so much fun; you will get a real sense of accomplishment the first time you speak a whole sentence, the first time you read a newspaper in a foreign language, the first time you converse with a native speaker.
Learning a foreign language
The very best way to learn a foreign language is likely already not a possibility – start young. In order to be completely fluent, to treat the language like a native speaker would, it is usually important to learn the foreign language from a very early age, the younger the better. If this is no longer an option, you can still succeed with formal or even informal lessons. Some people have an amazing capacity to pick up foreign languages just by immersing themselves in the foreign culture. No matter what you do to learn a foreign language, the key is practice and repetition.
Try to use the foreign language as much as possible and speak to native speakers of the foreign language as much as possible. Things will also be easier if you pick a foreign language that is related to a language you already know. If you know English, for example, you will be able pretty easily to pick up the general idea of a story in a French newspaper. If you look at a newspaper written in Thai, however, you would likely not even know where to begin – of course, for some people that just makes the challenge more fun!
Steve Dolan is a European who has travelled extensively across Europe and understands the value of languages. Find out how to learn a new language quickly and easily at Learn a Foreign Language and for Spanish try Learn Spanish