BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – An estimated 20% of individuals in the U.S. are fluent in one or more languages, and according to the 2000 census, approximately 9.2% of Louisianians were able to express themselves in English and at least one other language.  

Some experts believe it takes about a year and a half to become fluent in a second language. 

But why would a person spend so much of their time studying a language that isn’t their own?

A number of people who have become bilingual say learning a second language changed their lives for the better, and studies indicate that such claims have merit. 

Here are five ways that learning another language can be beneficial: 

  1. Increased memory and related abilities–  One PennState University study revealed that speaking more than one language helps to keep the brain in shape and improve mental function. According to the study, people who were bilingual performed better than people who spoke only one language at prioritizing and multi-tasking. Other studies indicated that bilingual people are better at remembering shopping lists, names of people recently met, and directions to a new destination.
  2. Increased attention span and focusOne study found that because a bilingual person is used to switching between different languages, their brain becomes better equipped at quick focus and the process of filtering information. This means if you are bilingual, you’re likely very adept at concentrating while studying, reading, or writing.
  3. Improved clarity, general communication skills- Learning a second language trains you focus on being clear when addressing others. So, this emphasis on being clear and understandable becomes a habit to the learner, whether they’re speaking their native language or a second language, and they become a more capable communicator in general.  
  4. Expands social opportunities– As you learn another language, you also learn about another culture. This opens the door to social opportunities with native speakers.  
  5. Expands job opportunities– The demand for bilingual professionals is reportedly growing. In fact, one source says that according to a U.S. Department of Labor estimate, over the next decade there will be a 42% increase in demand for translators and interpreters. Becoming fluent in a second language can lead to gaining work as an interpreter, translator, or language teacher. 

Many people who’ve faced the challenge of becoming fluent in a second language feel that doing so has vastly improved their lives on multiple levels. 

Click here for resources from the East Baton Rouge Parish Library on how to begin learning a second language.