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This article was published on March 21, 2015

Money, dream jobs, a better brain and all the other benefits: why learn a foreign language

Money, dream jobs, a better brain and all the other benefits: why learn a foreign language
Kayla Matthews
Story by

Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews is a writer for The Next Web, VentureBeat, Digital Trends and The Week. She is also a senior writer at MakeUseOf and the owne Kayla Matthews is a writer for The Next Web, VentureBeat, Digital Trends and The Week. She is also a senior writer at MakeUseOf and the owner of ProductivityBytes.com. Follow Kayla on Twitter @KaylaEMatthews.

With more online learning resources available than we know what to do with, there’s really no reason for you to not know a second language.

Being bilingual not only gives you some fun bragging rights, but it also gives you the benefit of standing out in the increasingly competitive job market.

Learning a second language can pave the way for salary increases and open up tons of amazing job opportunities that would be far beyond reach for someone who only knows one language. But it doesn’t stop there. Did you know it can help keep your brain healthy, for longer?

If you’ve ever considered learning a second language, below are just some of the many reasons why you should finally commit to becoming bilingual.

Benefits of being bilingual: earning more money

Today’s job market is tough.

Job Seekers Attend Job Fair

Even with the recent addition of 295,000 U.S. jobs, there are still many people seeking full-time positions who simply can’t find them and are forced to take part-time jobs instead. On top of that, job openings aren’t very readily available for people with degrees outside of the STEM industries (this is especially true for recent college grads.).

The result of few jobs and lots of applicants means getting a full-time position today requires the ability to stand out from other, equally qualified candidates. Learning a second language is one way that you can make that jump to stand out.

For the already-employed reader, knowing a second language can lead to salary bonuses. The exact value of bonuses earned from knowing another language is debatable. One Freakonomics podcast suggests that English-speaking Americans who learn a foreign language can expect to earn only about $600 more than someone who knows only English. However, as this Economist article points out, even small language bonuses can add up over time.

Supposing you only earn a 2 percent language bonus on your salary, you easily stand to earn an additional $25,000 during your career (likely more with salary increases).

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What’s more, salary bonuses vary depending on the exact language in which you’re proficient. Here’s a quick breakdown of a few different secondary languages and their annual bonuses as reported by The Economist:

  • Spanish – 1.5 percent bonus
  • French – 2.3 percent bonus
  • German – 3.8 percent bonus

While you may want to take these figures into account when deciding on a secondary language to learn, this list by no means needs to dictate you decision.

You can learn any language and still find career benefits. There are tons of amazing job opportunities for people with various secondary language skills. The next section highlights just a few.

Knowing a second language gives you awesome job opportunities

Aside from potentially working as for a company or individual, you can find unique and fun career opportunities in a variety of different fields.

Below are some of the (in my opinion) coolest jobs you could get with knowledge of another language.

Game Translator for Nintendo  – Get paid to translate the in-game text, manuals and more for Nintendo of America, Inc. There are six openings for a Japanese to English translator right now, but it’s also not unlikely that the company would need similar translators for other languages also.

shutterstock_200260748_Nintendo_Barone Firenze_resized

See the job posting here.

TV Subtitler for Cinematext Media USA – Want to translate Spanish TV shows to English? Cinematext Media is affiliated with large American networks like TNT, Cartoon Network, MTV and a variety of big-name Spanish-only channels.

See the job posting here.

Anime Translator for Crunchyroll – Love to watch anime? You can get paid to translate Japanese subtitles and text to English for the manga and anime mega-giant, Crunchyroll.

See the job posting here.  Similar jobs are also available for English to Italian and English to Arabic translations.

Community Representative for Blizzard Entertainment – Blizzard, who produces well-known video games like WoW and Diablo, is looking for a bilingual Spanish/English speaker to engage with their Latin American player communities. The job includes helping with game development and supporting the company at events, including BlizzCon.

See the job posting here.

Brand Specialist for Google – Notorious for being a great company to work for with lots of extra perks, Google is looking for a brand specialist fluent in German and English to help manage German market clients. Brand specialists work with customers and larger regional teams to assist in ongoing Google product improvements.

Google Plus

See the job posting here.

Are you dying to learn a new language yet? Maybe these additional benefits of becoming bilingual will finally convince you.

Speaking more than one language protects against Alzheimer’s and dementia

Studies have shown that adults who speak two or more languages experience the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia later than monolingual adults. This mental health advantage even extended to people who were illiterate, meaning that simply knowing how to speak two languages is beneficial even if you can’t read.

Bilingualism improves decision making

Learning a second language has also been shown to help eliminate some biases that can otherwise muddle our decision-making processes. Interestingly, the most common bias eliminated is our consideration for potential losses, which can cause us to ignore promising opportunities when there is any risk of loss present.

For people who learn a second language during adulthood, this bias tends to decrease, causing researchers to suggest that our rational mind takes the lead when we make decisions in a language that isn’t our native one.

Video thumbnail for youtube video Emotion in marketing: How our brains decide what's shareable and whom to trust

Improves your memory and attention span

Lastly, taking the time to learn a second language can have some very positive side-effects on your attention span and memory. A study conducted by Northwestern University in 2012 showed that knowing multiple languages forces your brain to pay attention to relevant sounds, while blocking out irrelevant sounds. The study provided the first biological evidence that being bilingual improves your hearing and helps with attention span and working memory.

Learning a second language may seem intimidating to adults who have been monolingual their entire lives. In fact, many of us were told at one time or another that becoming proficient in a new language is unlikely for beginning adult learners.

Yet, research from the University of Illinois at Chicago shows that adults learning a foreign language are completely capable of becoming highly proficient in it.

There’s really no reason not to learn another language. Even if you like your current job and find your pay suitable, wouldn’t you at least like to stave off memory loss and make better decisions?

Start thinking about the language you’d like to learn today, and tell us what you decide on in the comments section below.

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