Why it’s Still Worth it to Learn a New Language


One of the topics that I’ll be exploring throughout 2018 is the topic of learning a new language.

That’s because I’m building a course about that very thing – specifically, how to use sketchnotes as a supporting tool when learning a new language.

But before getting into the nitty gritty of language learning techniques, I want to take a step back and explore why it’s even worth it to learn a new language, when English is so prevalent and automated translation technology is becoming so good.

John McWhorter has thought about that question much more than I have, and he gave a TED Talk on it.

Within his talk, McWhorter laid out four reasons to learn a new language:

The first is that by learning a new language you essentially gain an entry ticket into the culture surrounding that language, which means that you’re able to fully participate in and appreciate that culture, moreso than someone who is relying on translation.

Reason number two – it’s good for your brain! Those that speak multiple languages are less likely to develop dementia and they’re better at multitasking.

The third reason to learn a new language – it can be a lot of fun to make new sounds and speak in new rhythms compared to what you get to do with your native language (which you might be bored with by now anyway, right?).

Finally, reason number four: because of the resources available on the internet, it has never been easier to learn a new language, any time, any place.

Personally, I feel the strongest attachments to numbers one and four.

As I mentioned up front, I’m building an online resource to help folks use the tool of visual note-taking to learn a new language. So I’m adding to the pool of resources available and hopefully providing something that doesn’t already exist, that might be a slightly new take on the language learning process.

But by far the strongest pull for me to learn a new language is the first point – the fact that it allows you to participate in and appreciate another culture in a deeper way than if you don’t speak the language. I’ve experienced that once already – I spent my entire junior year of college studying abroad in Ecuador and traveling around South America.

That year abroad was life-changing, and I’ve craved experiences like that ever since, but I’ve yet to put in the time and energy to learn a new language.

That’s changing this year.

In conjunction with the new course that I’m building, I’m going to be learning a new language so that I can test out myself the resources that I’m building for others.

I’ll soon be letting you know what language I’ll be learning (and hopefully, what country I’ll be visiting!) this year, but for now I want you to think about if learning a new language or traveling to a foreign country is on your bucket list, and if McWhorter’s reasons swayed you more in that direction.

If so, maybe now’s a good time to give it a go. McWhorter mentions Rosetta Stone and Glossika as two great resources to check out, so be sure to explore those.

And if you want to supplement your language-learning with some fun and useful sketchnoting activities, take a look at the course I’m building.

I’ll be back soon with more sketchnoting goodness.

Till then,

Doug

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Want To Dig Deeper?

If you’re new to the idea of sketchnoting and excited to develop more visual thinking tools, I think you’d enjoy our foundational course An Introduction To Visual Note-Taking.

If you’re an educator interested in bringing visual note-taking into your classroom, check out Sketchnoting In The Classroom.

If you’d like to use your sketchnoting skills to make engaging videos, we’ve got a course for that too! Check out How To Make Sketchnote Videos.

And if you want to create new personal and professional opportunities by sharing the authentic journey of your skill development online, check out Learn In Public.