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Nine Good Reasons for Studying and Learning a Foreign Language

Paul has spent a lifetime traveling and learning many languages. He is now conversant in Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese, and Thai.

Foreign Languages


Studying and Learning Foreign Languages

I have studied and learned to different degrees of proficiency in several foreign languages. After taking Latin, Spanish, German, and French in high school and college, I continued my foreign language study by learning Chinese Mandarin during military service. When I was almost 60, I also studied and learned the Thai language.

In high school, I enrolled in Latin and Spanish to fulfill a foreign language requirement for a college prep track of study. I took German and French as a requirement for doing planned future graduate research in the field of chemistry. During the Navy, I learned Chinese Mandarin only because the Navy determined that I had an aptitude for learning languages.

After reflecting on my lifetime of foreign language study, and particularly my past career in using Chinese Mandarin with the federal government, I have come up with nine good reasons for anyone to study and learn a foreign language.

1. Communication with Loved Ones and Friends

Many people learn how to speak and read a foreign language to communicate with loved ones and friends. After marrying a Taiwanese and living in Taiwan in the 1970s, I quickly learned how to speak Taiwanese to facilitate communication with my wife, her relatives, and our neighbors. I have also used spoken and written Chinese Mandarin to keep in touch with friends from Taiwan and China.

2. Foreign Travel and Survival

If you travel to many countries, some knowledge of the spoken and written language of the countries you are visiting will make your trips easier, more exciting, and rewarding. You will be able to communicate better with natives and probably save money when shopping. By being able to ask where the toilet is and how to get to the subway stop, you will be able to survive in a strange locality.

3. Understanding a New Culture

Language and culture are inseparable. By acquiring knowledge of a country's culture, you will better understand a foreign country's customs, history, religions, food, and art. You will also be able to better understand people.

4. Doing Foreign Business

When engaged in business, it is necessary to speak the same language as your partner. If more businessmen and women understood Chinese Mandarin and Japanese, it would be much easier for them to do business. Many of my English students in Taiwan in the 1970s were businessmen engaged in import-export trade. They needed to deal with American clients who could not speak Chinese Mandarin or Taiwanese.

5. Opportunities for Interesting Jobs

Many job opportunities await bilingual and multilingual persons. With my proficiency in Chinese Mandarin, I was able to find work as a translator with the federal government. Some of my colleagues even became interpreters. There are many opportunities for doing language work with the U.S. State Department, CIA, NSA, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security. For the academic-oriented, you can become a primary or secondary school foreign language teacher with a Bachelor's Degree. By earning a Master's or Ph.D., language majors will be able to teach at colleges or universities.

6. Improving Your Native Language

The study of foreign languages, especially Latin, has helped improve my native English language skills. This is because many English words have prefixes, suffixes, and roots derived from Latin. For example, not knowing the meaning of the word "translucent," knowledge of Latin would tell me that the root word "luc" means light, and the prefix "trans" means across. Hence, I could infer that translucent refers to light passing through something. Numerous words from French, German, and Spanish are also found in the English language.

7. Makes You More Broad-Minded

Compared to the multilingual Europeans, most Americans are rather narrow-minded in their views toward people from other countries. This is because the majority of Americans are monolingual and have never interacted with persons from other cultures. I have found that my study of foreign languages has made me more tolerant of foreigners and their different cultures.

8. An Aid for Doing Research

A knowledge of French, German, and Russian will be of great assistance for any Ph.D. candidate researching one of the sciences such as chemistry, physics, biology, or biochemistry. My limited knowledge of German is also proving helpful in my genealogy research as I examine the old German census and military records.

9. The Chance to Become Bilingual or Multilingual

I would highly recommend that if the environment is available, young children should have the chance to learn one or more foreign languages before the age of five. At that age, a child has internalized all phonetics and basic grammar patterns of a language for communication. In Thailand, there are stories about kids at the age of six able to speak fluent Thai, Chinese Mandarin, and English. If a child is bilingual or multilingual, it will open up so many opportunities in education.


If you haven't yet studied and learned a foreign language, it is never too late to begin. Your skills in a new language can be used for travel and survival, communication with foreign friends, and understanding different world cultures.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2016 Paul Richard Kuehn


Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on August 27, 2017:

Thank you for your comments, Glen! I have been learning German online using Memrise and Duolingo. Have you checked out these sites?

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 14, 2016:

Thanks for pointing out the meaning of "Lucifer." I certainly applaud you for dong your best to speak Spanish when in Spain. it's a shame there are so many American tourists who expect their hosts to speak English with them.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 14, 2016:

I appreciate your comments, Meg. Latin was offered in a lot of high schools in the 1950s. If I had attended Marquette University High School, a Jesuit school, I would have been able to study both Greek and Latin.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 14, 2016:

Thank you very much for your comment, Larry. Why don't you check out Duolingo where you can study languages online for free?

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on December 14, 2016:

I very much want to learn a foreign language. I need to quit wanting and start doing.

Very compelling list.

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on December 14, 2016:

Great reasons. I didn't realise you could learn Latin in America! LOL. I agree that children should get the opportunity to learn languages early.

Jimmy Redfox on December 14, 2016:

I totally agree with all points. Ironically, Lucifer means "Light Bringer" Without going further with that, foreign languages do really open one's mind. And, one does not have to be proficient, to impress the native speakers with one's sincerity with at least attempting to recognize their language. In my case, I try my best to speak Spanish when in Spain. How would English speakers react, if Spanish speakers refused to try to speak English in Canada, the USA, etc.?