Why learn a foreign language? Goals, aims and motivations

Why learn a foreign language? Goals, aims and motivations

There's at least a dozen reasons why you might be learning a language. Maybe you have friends or family that speak Russian, and you want to be able to speak in their native tongue. Maybe you're looking for a way to keep your mind sharp. Or, maybe you just want to order in French or Japanese at your favourite restaurant!

With so many possible reasons, it makes sense that there's not a one-size-fits-all approach to learning. What's really important? Staying motivated, continuing to practice, and having fun along the way! Once you've identified your specific goals, it becomes much easier.

Motivations in language learning courtesy of TakeLessons.com

So why do you learn languages?

When I talk to LinguaLift students I always ask for their reason for learning and I find it fascinating to discover what brings people to expand their horizons and learn foreign languages. We have students who fit all the motivations mentioned in the infographic as well as some with different goals, below you will find some quotes from your fellow learners—I hope they will motivate you to continue on your learning journey!

Meet the different “tribes” of learners and let us know which one you belong to on Twitter with #whyIlearn

Travellers

“I may travel to Japan often, so I want to at least learn the basics before doing so.” — Vinny

”I want to learn so that I'm more eligible to go for an exchange program.” — Nick

“To never expand your horizons to other places is like being a bird but never opening your wings.” — Trinity

Indeed, learning a second language is a great way to expand your understanding of the world around us. If you intend to move to a foreign country or go there for a student exchange I don’t think I need to convince you how different your experience will be if you add the knowledge of the local language to your mental luggage. It will help feel comfortable and safe in a new place enabling you to arrange for travel, accommodation and food without having to rely on others.

The ability to speak to local native speakers will supply you with insider tips and open doors to experiences that you may not have had otherwise. Often it can also open doors to people’s houses and help start friendships!

What is the best language to learn?

Culture explorers

“I love Japan a lot, both the history of it, and even anything and everything there now, therefore I'd like to learn Japanese to be able to understand it more, and better.” — Ziggy

“I'll be able to access to a whole new array of film, music and literature, and a greater understanding of the history and culture of Japan.” — Eman

“The pleasant feeling of being able to communicate your ideas further and explore different mindsets.” — Scylla

Increased cultural awareness helps broaden the mind and enriches personal exchanges and experiences. Speaking a language of the culture you’re fascinated with gives you access to an array of works and materials. If you’re interested in politics and current affairs, what’s better than reading updates on the news’ sites in a foreign language? You can’t get more up to date than that!

Fun seekers

“I thought learning a new, completely abstract, language from English would be fun.” — William

“I don't really have an actual motive. It seems like a fun language to learn in general.” — Waf

There are those of us who simply enjoy learning something new and unusual. Those who learn a foreign language for the first time have a lot of ground to cover, as learning in itself is a skill that has to be developed. Thankfully, there are some simple ways through which we can all make language learning fun, such as playing games, watching films or participating in karaoke.

Brain trainers

"Learning a foreign language is important because you exercise your brain and train it to think differently.” — Kelly

Learning a foreign language is literally a muscle building exercise for the brain. A study conducted in the University College London investigated the brains of mono- and bilinguals and concluded that learning a new language changes the amount and composition of the brain’s grey matter in the same way as exercise changes muscle.

It is perhaps no surprise then that a language learning routine shares a lot of similarities to a workout in the gym!

Langauge as a workout for the brain: How language learning is like going to the gym

Career seekers

”A foreign language is also something you could write in your resume!” — Adil

“It is easier to get a job if you talk the same language as your employer” — Miyo


”I would like to be confident and keep pace in this constantly changing world.” — So Jung

If you’re looking for a job in the country where the foreign language is spoken, I don’t think I have to convince you about the benefits of learning it. Speaking a foreign language can open doors to working in foreign companies based in your home country. However, that’s not everything. The ability to speak another language is a prove of your cultural sensitivity, openness and higher communication skills so important in the modern globalised economy. It also testifies to self-discipline, shows you’re goal-oriented and independent, all of which are excellent buzzwords for your resume ;-)

Social animals

”I will be able to greet new people I have never spoken too, and will understand them fully and speak to them clearly as if I were a native speaker. — Carlos

”The reason I am learning a new language is so that I can talk to the members of my family who only speak that language.” — Thomas

”I hoped to communicate with my native speaking friends in another language besides English.” — KassieChan

Language is primarily a tool for communication that helps us form relationships and deepen our bonds with others around us. Making an effort to step out of your cultural bubble is highly appreciated by native speakers—it serves as an evidence of open-mindedness and empathy even if you’re attempts to speak aren’t entirely correct.

Manga/anime/game fans

“I would like to be able to read untranslated manga and watch un-subbed anime” — Olivia

”I am OBSESSED with anime and manga” — Yuno

“The main reason I wanted to learn Japanese is so I can play games that, don't have a translation.” — Krisztian

This is a goal that many of our Japanese learners will identify with! It is of course a sub-part of the point about exploring the culture, but since there is such a big group of manga and anime fans among our learners, I thought I’d include it separately.


Needless to say, your study motivations inform the method and focus of your learning. If you only have a week to go through the basics before a holiday trip, spending it on reading and cramming advanced grammar is probably not the best idea.

Make sure you share your study goal with your teacher or LinguaLift tutor—discuss possible approaches, and decide on a study plan most appropriate to your needs.

This way you will make the most of your learning without losing track of the reason that motivated you to take up studying in the first place!

Read our step by step guide to self-learning to make the best use of your highly-boosted learning motivation!