Why Do We Need to Learn New Languages?

By Niki Mara, for the Department of World Languages and Cultures

I Came to Trinity in 2015 as a Chemistry major but ended up switching to the Education program on the very first day. I think I’ve always been a teacher at heart, specifically, a language teacher. I am currently on my way to becoming a certified teacher of Spanish and English as a second language.

Learning new languages and encouraging others to do so is one of my greater passions, for many reasons. I’ve always seen learning a new language as an act of utmost respect toward a culture. When you take the time to study a language from scratch, you are showing that you are willing to go beyond what is familiar to you and immerse yourself in someone else’s history, their life, their thoughts. This is especially relevant on the TWU campus – we have a beautiful representation of diverse languages and cultures, and it would be an awful shame if we all kept to our familiar dialects. One of the best ways you can show your interest in our international students’ cultures is by trying to learn a bit of their language! I am from Russia and speak the language fluently, and it warms my heart whenever I hear a friendly “Privet!” from a friend on campus (that’s “hello” in Russian).

By learning a new language, you are not only appreciating a new culture – you are doing yourself a favor. Studies show that learning a second language does amazing things to our brains. When you study a new dialect, your academic abilities improve – you gain better attention and concentration, even in other academic subjects! Many people who take second language courses in university have been observed to get more relevant information from lectures, and to get overall higher testing scores. Isn’t that amazing?

Language is a powerful tool, and if you know a few of them, you have a larger toolkit. I have had the privilege of learning Spanish through the Department of World Languages and Cultures at TWU, and I am grateful for every class I’ve had. I have already started to reap the benefits of learning a new language. I got to teach simple Spanish to little kids at a camp this summer, and they were thrilled to learn a new language!

I know that as my skills in Spanish grow, so will my ability to teach, and my ability to speak to those whose native language is Spanish. I may not be able to help everyone, but I can help by understanding. As Nelson Mandela said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”

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