You probably wouldn’t sign up to invest hundreds of hours into something unless you saw some benefit to doing so. Let’s make sure you are aware of ALL the benefits so you can keep your motivation strong when times get tough during your language learning journey.
As you might have already read in the beginner- trap entry, the majority of visible benefits that come from learning a language occur towards the end of the process, which is why a long-term approach to language learning is usually ideal. With that being said, you’ll be able to take advantage of a few right from the start.
In the beginning, you’ll meet new people, who you may have never crossed paths with in other areas of your life, thanks to this common interest. You will be able to successfully navigate the streets and order food in a country where the language is spoken, likely being treated better than tourists who don’t make an effort with the language. And finally, you will likely improve your native language to a certain extent, as you become more familiar with the mechanics of linguistics. Some great perks indeed, though probably not enough to warrant investing thousands of hours to fully learn a language.
The real benefits of language learning begin once you have reached a solid (that’s an unspecific word, isn’t it?) level in the language. First, a second language opens professional, educational and research opportunities around the world. Why not do your masters in Germany? Second, you now have the opportunity to live in another country and appreciate all of the changes and experiences that go along with doing so. Whether you relocate or not, you’ll now be capable of making friends and building a network of people you never would have been able to communicate with.
Most importantly, your experience with locals is going to change completely. Through your language skills, it will be clear to everyone that you have an extreme interest in their culture and they will want to share it with you. Travelling becomes an entirely different activity as you have small interactions in the grocery store or museum that lead to opportunities you would have never expected (like that time a Mexican family invited me to their local carnival in a small town of 500 people in the countryside, and after a full day of celebrations, we stayed up all night with their neighbors, making food and playing games in a small bungalow one of their ancestors had built 70 years ago—and no, none of them spoke English). You can now meet locals and truly get to know them, which means truly experiencing their ideas and culture. And when that happens, you will almost undoubtedly change as a person.
If that isn’t enough, there are also a bunch of effects language learning, or any learning for that matter, has on your mind. Delayed onset of dementia is one of many. There are hundreds of studies with hundreds of different claims, so you can dig into those on your own or take a look at the “Science of Language Learning” section in the forum.
There is a reason that after learning one language, many people continue on to a third or a fourth. It’s because they value these benefits, and taking advantage of them becomes an easier process with subsequent languages. While you don’t need to become a professional to notice the positive effects from all of the previously outlined perks, you do need to escape the beginner-trap to enjoy the majority of them. So use that as motivation to push through the difficult moments and reach your language learning goals!
Motivation, Beginner-Trap, Long-Term, Subsequent Languages