By Aaron Hodges
There's probably a million reasons to learn a new language. Studies have found that learning a new language improves critical thinking, even if you don't get a chance to use it. And hundreds of cultures are able to interact because of second languages. But if you're like me, a native English speaker, understanding a second language is not exactly a common occurrence. If you ask me, that's our loss. And if you'd like to go against that status quo, I believe enrolling in a language school should be on the top of your list.
Here's a few reasons why:
1) Spanish is the second most spoken first language in the world
The first is Mandarin. English is third. I know, being a native English speaker sometimes it's easy to think the whole world speaks our lingo, from tour guides to baristas. They don't. Sure, if you stick to the well-worn tourists tracks you might be able to get by on English alone, but if you really want to experience and meet people from other countries, it helps to know a bit of the local lingo. And with its Latin base, you'll at least be able to link a few Spanish words to English ones -unlike Mandarin...
2) Travel the world
As I've said, there are a lot of countriesthat have Spanish as their local language —every country from Guatemala down to Patagonia (with the exceptions of Brazil and Belize, of course). And unlike SE Asia or Europe, there are very few people that actually speak English, even in the tourist industry. One of my funniest memories traveling South America was in Cusco, when a tourist office would only speak to us in Spanish! it is a good thing we had a bit of Spanish between us, because it was the only way to book the cheap but complicated $10 minibus to Machu Pichu, rather than taking the $100 train.
3) Communicate with the locals
Some of my best experiences overseas have been conversations with random people on buses, trains or even just in the street. But that's a little bit difficult to do when you don't speak the language spoken by everyone around you. And if you're anything like me and have interest in local politics and history, that makes it even harder to get a gauge on the experiences of the average citizen.
4) Understand the menu
Yes, many places will be able to provide you an English menu, even in South America. You just might end up paying premium in some places for that convenience. And in my experience, often the best and cheapest local eateries might not even have a menu! In those places you'll need to know how to ask how much the meal is, and understand what they're saying when they ask whether you'd like your eggs revuelto o frito.
All in all, speaking a second language is a skill all of us should aspire to ―and if you ask me, Spanish should be on the top of everyone's list! Even more so if you intend to visit South America, where even a week of Spanish lessons is going to save you a lot of strife!