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Why Learn Another Language?

In the twenty-first century, multilingualism is becoming the norm. It’s estimated that over half the world’s population is at least bilingual and this figure is growing. So where do you fit into this changing world? Do you see yourself as part of a dynamic population of world citizens, or stuck on a shrinking monolingual island? The real question should be: why not learn another language?

If you’re at all curious about the world beyond your own day-to-day routine, speaking French (or any other language besides your native tongue) can upgrade your life by increasing opportunities for career, living, travel, friendship, adventure and love. The more languages you speak, the bigger your world becomes.

And there is absolutely no reason to be discouraged, or to tell yourself you don’t have the talent for it. The idea that only children can become bilingual is simply a myth. You can learn to speak another language no matter your age or educational background; maybe you’ll never be mistaken for a native speaker, but you will be able to communicate – and that is what languages are for. Speaking a language is about connection, not perfection. So let’s ask a new question: who do you want to connect with?

Learning French

A language is more than a bunch of words and rules for how to put those words together; it is another world. Speaking French gives you access to the world of over 75 million native speakers in France, Belgium and Luxembourg, and 263 million people around the rest of the world who speak it as a second language – most of them in West Africa.
French is considered one of the easiest languages for a native English speaker to learn. The grammar and sentence structure are different from English, but simpler.

Because both languages have Latin roots, they also share thousands of cognates – words that sound the same and have the same meanings.
Consider this sentence in French – made up almost entirely of French-English cognates: L’ancien restaurant est à proximité du musée d’art. The cognates for “restaurant”, “museum” and “art” are virtually unchanged. Stretch your brain a bit and you might notice that ancien looks like “ancient” and proximité looks a lot like “proximity”; the simpler alternatives to these words are “old” and “near”. Put it all together and you get: The old restaurant is near the art museum.
Not only is French relatively easy to pick up and start speaking, understanding it gives you a huge head-start to understanding other Romance languages like Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.
With Babbel, you can learn French without going to classes, hiring a tutor or investing in expensive software. For an affordable monthly subscription, you have access to hundreds of hours of interactive courses that get you speaking right from the first lesson. Babbel’s integrated speech recognition can even help you improve your pronunciation.

Benefits

Having a little French in your conversational repertoire will open up the world to you on multiple levels:
  • For Business – being bilingual isn’t just good for your resumé, it can change your career. As a major language for global commerce, knowing some French can be extremely advantageous for anyone doing business in western Europe or the western half of Africa. Countries in West Africa represent rapidly emerging markets that will be harder to access if you can’t understand French. In Europe, French remains an important language for many businesses.
  • Traveling – France is one of the most pleasant countries in Europe to vacation – if you can speak French. Seek out the kinds of genuine places that are out of bounds to non-French speakers. If you get away from Paris hotels and Riviera resorts, you’ll discover that most of the country consists of farms, vineyards and small villages. The common denominator, whether you are in Provence, Champagne or Brittany, is excellent food, world-class wine and inexhaustible country charm.
French is also spoken in Belgium and Luxembourg, and it’s the most spoken second language in Europe, making it useful in countries like Poland, the Czech Republic or Greece. It is the lingua franca of half the African continent: from Morocco to Senegal to Mauritius to the Seychelles.
  • Living Abroad – When you speak French well enough to travel without a phrasebook in hand, the idea of staying longer in another country can become tempting. Cities like Paris, Brussels and Lyon offer opportunities for students looking for a semester abroad; professionals may find the next big thing in growing economies like Algeria, Tunisia and Côte d’Ivoire; and retirees who appreciate the good things in life continue to be drawn to the south of France.
  • Brain Training – Even if you decide to only learn French as a hobby, knowing multiple languages will keep your brain healthy and nimble, even in old age. This is because knowing another language creates another network of connections among your neurons. The higher your neural interconnectivity, the better your memory and problem-solving skills.
  • French, Belgian and African Cultures, Unfiltered – The French-speaking world is responsible for gorgeous (and delicious) arts and culture. Whether you want to explore the wine region of Bordeaux, learn to dance Sabar in Dakar, tour Belgium’s famous breweries or learn how to really cook confit de canard, speaking the language will let you participate more directly. Knowing French will also give you unfiltered access to the films of the French New Wave, the literature of Flaubert, Balzac and Proust; and the music of Édith Piaf and Serge Gainsbourg. And if you are among the 10 million Franco-Americans who can’t speak French, learning the language will turn your window onto your heritage into a doorway.

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