Why Invest in Language Learning?
Researchers at the University of Chicago recently found a strong correlation between multilingualism and the ability to empathize with others' perspectives. In the investigation, children were presented with 3 toy cars: one small, one medium, and one large. The smallest car was clearly obstructed from a nearby adult's view, but not the children's. When the adult asked each child to move the "small car", only half of the monolingual children moved the medium car (the smallest car from the adult's perspective) compared to 75% of the children who had significant exposure to foreign languages. The implication of these results is that young people who engage with multiple languages can more easily understand others' perspectives.
A study at the University of Luxembourg found that bilingualism may help close the achievement gap between high and low income students. The study tested the abilities of 80 second graders from low income backgrounds to "direct and focus their attention when distractions were present". The results indicated that the bilingual test subjects had a stronger cognitive ability to focus than their monolingual peers. "Teaching a foreign language does not involve costly equipment, it widens children's linguistic and cultural horizons, and it fosters the healthy development of executive control", says researcher Pascale Engel de Abreu following the results of her investigation. It shows that language education has the capacity to give children developmental boosts to counteract socioeconomic disadvantages.
According to research by www.NewAmericanEconomy.org, demand for bilingual workers in America more than doubled between 2010 and 2015 while demand for English-Mandarin speakers tripled. Meanwhile, job ads seeking Spanish and Arabic speakers increased by 150%. Among the US states with the highest demand for bilingual workers are California and Arizona. Of the data collected, New American Economy chairman, John Feinblatt, notes that "today's global economy" has developed a "growing need to attract and promote a multilingual workforce among both foreign -and U.S.- born talent".
There are unique cultural nuances to discover through studying a foreign language. Understanding the historical context behind pictorial Chinese characters, learning how Arabic influences helped shape many Spanish words, and studying the stories behind any language's popular idioms lends deeper insight into the cultures from which each language derives. Not to mention, each language one learns compounds exponentially on the variety of people with whom they can connect. For example, speaking one language only makes it possible to converse with anyone who speaks that one language whereas speaking two languages makes it possible to converse with anyone who speaks either of those languages, even if neither are their first language.