The Case for Learning a Second Language

Published Apr 19, 2018

In a country with hundreds of local dialects, learning new languages can be a crucial component to leading a successful life. Where conflicting ethnic groups and religious beliefs cause major barriers within Nigerian communities, language may be one way to bridge gaps and build a stronger, more united Nigeria.

Communication is more than just talking to someone, it’s how you present yourself, defend yourself, argue, and interact with others. By learning new languages, your ability to connect with people from different parts of the country, or different parts of the world, is drastically increased. I can guarantee that when you meet people from different backgrounds and cultures, your worldview will be challenged, which will cause you to re-examine and re-assess things you otherwise may have taken for granted. This is a good thing! It not only helps you grow and mature, but it enriches your sense of identity by expanding your way of thinking.

Beyond communication skills, did you know that bilingualism also has significant positive effects on your brain? Bilingualism has been shown to improve one’s ability to resolve internal conflict, essentially strengthening your cognitive muscles. Put simply, “the command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks” is greatly enhanced when you are bilingual (New York Times, 2012). This helps with things like ignoring distractions and multitasking. Bilingualism also has a surprising influence on delaying the onset of dementia or other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

So, how can you educate yourself and improve your second language skills? One way to get started is by surrounding yourself with authentic language material. Look around your community for newspaper articles from nearby communities or turn on your radio to a new channel and listen to local broadcasts and music. The more you are immersed in another language, the faster you will pick it up! You could also initiate language exchanges with people from other communities. Practice speaking half in your language and half in theirs. Don’t worry if you make a mistake! Language learning is a gradual process that involves a lot of trial and error!

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Brianna Gutierrez

Brianna is an active advocate for environmental justice and international development.

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