They aren’t “that tourist.”
When vacationing in another country, you can reasonably expect that at least a few people can communicate to you in English, especially in the heavily touristed areas. Speak the local dialect, however, and you stand apart from every camera-toting person who “insists” on speaking English as if everyone understands it. Chances are, the townspeople would warm up to you faster, and—who knows—they might give you a valuable tip or two that would make your visit more memorable.
Or, it may just save your butt. The very limited Dutch I know took me a long way when it came down to asking for a couple of Euros for a train ticket from a woman waiting for her ride at a train station in Antwerp, for instance.
Their social skills are more refined.
The cleaning person in my office speaks very little English—he came from Mexico, and as such, primarily converses in Spanish. Beyond the usual pleasantries and the occasional talk about how his weekend was, he has a hard time keeping a conversation going because he is unable to express himself in English. Talk to him in Spanish—no matter how clipped—and I soon found out that the man is a font of hilarious observations about life. I get quite a bit of Mole from him.
Remember that we are living in an ever-shrinking world—in the future, the girl who has trouble expressing herself to you when you make small talk just might be the one who would make the perfect tour guide when you visit her country.
They’re a person of the world.
We’re not talking about joining the Miss Universe here: The book “Languages and Children—Making the Match: New Languages for Young Learners, Grades K-8” found that children exposed to another language early in their lives grow up to be open-minded about other cultures, are more aware of the diversity of its people, and are less prejudiced of those who appear different from them. A related study done by the Center of Applied Linguistics showed that fluency in another language improves global communication for the same reasons.
They sound sexier.
It’s a well-known conjecture that people find a non-native accent sexy—or at the very least, intriguing. Fortunately, as you learn a new language, you can also pick up its accent. An informal street survey done by a U.S. men’s magazine asked whether women find guys with a British accent sexy. The answers were unanimous: There’s something about hearing the same thing expressed differently (for example, “I’m gonna get smashed tonight” over “I’m gonna get drunk tonight”) that interests women. Either it sounds better, they find it quirky, and gives the perception that the person speaking is intelligent.
Their resume is more impressive.
Even if your prospect employer doesn’t speak a whiff of French or Italian, stating in your application that you are able to understand another language suggests you are willing and interested in learning new things. This hopefully would translate to you being open to take on out-of-the-box challenges in the company. (Should you get hired, of course.)
There’s also the obvious: When a job posting says that knowledge of a foreign language is preferred but not required, the fact you already know one puts you at an advantage.
Knowing a foreign language has increased their overall health.
Research from Canadian scientists has found a relation between someone with knowledge of a foreign language other than their Mother Tongue, and their chances of developing dementia in their senior years. This is apparently due to the individual’s ability to switch tasks—ergo, switch the way they think and express themselves from one language construct to another—effectively and efficiently. This comes in very handy when they become older: The study finds these same people maintain better executive functioning, or the process of controlling and managing actions such as memory, attention, problem-solving, and verbal reasoning.
In short, learning another language is exercise for your brain. And a well-exercised brain will serve you well in your prime.