I found this infographic today on the benefits of learning languages. I think we have to take some of these suggestions with a pinch of salt but there has been plenty of literature about the long term effects of learning a language on brain development and maintaining healthy brain activity as we get older. Then again, doing sudoku, brain teasers, crosswords, in fact anything that keeps us thinking critically as we age, is beneficial. I guess mathematicians could say that learning maths is highly beneficial too…. However, as a language learner and teacher, I am happy to support the views this infographic proposes.
After spending a week in Fiji, I was left wondering about how much better off to survive in the world many of the people in small islands who grow up speaking their native language as well as English are. They have all the benefits regarding brain health but also the ability to travel and work in other countries because they speak English, they can develop skills and communicate. Something which is only touched on in this infographic is the benefit understanding and speaking the language of a country you visit gives you in terms of understanding the people, how they think, behave, live. Having knowledge about cultural practices, societal norms allows you to get to know more people and helps you to be accepted into more familiar circles where you get to know the people and the country more intimately making your experience all the richer.