The Case for Learning a Second Language

Category: Language
Last Updated: 16 May 2023
Essay type: Proposal
Pages: 15 Views: 141

As the world becomes less and less segregated, and many unique cultures come together, several barriers limit communications and understandings. Amongst these barriers would be the incapacity to speak fluently with one another. Although, it is somewhat unrealistic to learn all languages, even just one could significantly help such instances. Bilingualism not only allows such communication and formation of relationships, rather enables individuals to become more cultured and educated as well. Learning a second language can be very difficult, and historically, implications have not always been conducted in successful manners. However, modern day learning is enriched with better ideas and results. It is argued, that learning a second language is different than the initial language in numerous ways, making such tasks somewhat impossible. Nonetheless, many individuals have successfully learned two languages, showcasing that it is indeed possible.

In many instances, learning a second language is required in Universities or lower denominator schools as well. When only a few months are dedicated to such efforts, the language is not captured to the fullest degree. However, in circumstances such as studying abroad or immigrants coming into their new homes, languages must be learned flawlessly. Although, both circumstances lead different outcomes, we must also think of the motivation in such instances. If a second language is needed to function in society, then its learning will be taken more seriously with more effort implemented. However, most of us do not need to learn a second language, so we deem it unimportant. Having personal experience with learning a second language, I not only understand the difficulties, but also the numerous benefits of doing so. Learning a second language will bring upon many hidden benefits, therefore, we should all strive to learn another language.

I propose that all individuals should strive to learn a second language. Although there are numerous benefits of learning a second language, they are not gained effortlessly by either party. Students must be motivated to learn, and teachers must have active roles in that motivation. When Goriot, Denessen, Et. Al. decided to study appreciation of home language, perception of teachers, and executive functioning, many benefits and key findings on such topics surfaced. Generally, when learning another language, ideas of culture are not taught alongside it.

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However, within this experiment it was. Participants learned how closely related their Turkish and German cultures were, which brought upon more appreciation and motivation for the students. The idea that culture and language should be taught simultaneously is necessary to fully capturing the linguistics. This article also revealed pupil's perceptions of the teachers will play a lead role in learning as well. Teachers who appear to be knowledgeable, insightful, and patient tend to yield better results and cooperation amongst their pupils (Goriot, Denessen, Et. Al., 2016). As discussed briefly above, for students who do not need to learn such languages for emergency reasons, motivation can be extremely difficult to do so.

For students who do not necessarily need to learn a second language, creating interest has yielded significant in such efforts. In one experiment, students were enrolled in cultural learning-based classes that pertained to the second language that was being taught to them. In this case, it was English. The students in this study originated from the country of Turkey. Not only did these culture classes inform them on American culture, rather how it is similar and different to their own.

Studies reveal, that by only showcasing the differences, students have less appeal to learn. However, more attention is paid when similarities exit, because this causes more interest in learning. Students in such cultural classes were taught immerse information on America. They also discovered how several benefits can surface from learning such ideas. For instance, if the students were to ever visit America, they would experience less culture shock because of learning these basic societal cultures in this class (Genc & Bada, 2005).

Culture shock is a term that basically means disorientation due to being subjected to another culture. Many international students, such as myself have undergone such instances, and they are quite unfavorable. However, I was not predisposed to American culture prior to coming over here, if I had been, like these students were, I more than likely would not have faced such issues. Such classes as the ones described not only help with understanding of culture, however, it directly enables ease and desire of learning the language of that culture as well.

According to Genc & Bada (2005): "The findings of the study suggest that a culture class is significantly beneficial in terms of language skills, raising cultural awareness, changing attitudes towards native and target societies, and contribution to the teaching profession. The participants in this study emphasized some kind of transformation in their thinking and listed six points as potential contribution of a culture class they received" (Genc & Bada, p.81, 2005). As we can see from both studies, culture and language should be taught simultaneously, due to the interest and motivational factors of such. Intriguing students will certainly yield better results than simply forcing the language down their throats.

The majority of past findings on motivation in second language have primarily resulted on focus in social and pragmatic dimensions, however, theoretical ones have been vastly unexplored. Although, the learning of culture and other like-minded topics can lead to increased interest of learning another language, such tactic do not work in every classroom. Therefore, other factors such as classroom structure, intellectual curiosity, and self- confidence should also be considered in motivational strategies to increase interest in second language learning.

Classroom structure is significant in obtaining motivation and participation of students. Often times, students are reluctant to participate because they feel embarrassed or underprepared. A lot of students report that teachers move very fast through information, and they cannot keep up at all (Dörnyei, 1994). I can certainly relate to such instances. When I came to the United States, my English as Second Language (ESL) classes were very fast paced. Teachers would expect students like me to pick up on such concepts quickly. Although, some fellow classmates were able to pick up, one must realize is that not all students learn at the same pace. Therefore, teachers need to move at a pace that enables slow learners to understand just as much as the rest of the students.

Dörnyei also discussed intellectual curiosity, which basically means wanted to increase knowledge and understandings of specific concepts or ideas. By igniting the curiosity of such topics teachers can gain adherence of students. This can be done by the cultural aspects discussed above, or even by incorporating fun activities based on the language as well. If students see how learning this language can benefit them in the future, they will be more involved with learning it. The author also touched upon the idea of self- confidence in the article.

Self-confidence in language can be a complex issue. Many students feel mixed emotions when learning this langue. That is, they want to learn but face struggles in doing so. For example, pronunciation can be embarrassing in classroom settings. Students need to have confidence in order to participate and be motivated (Dörnyei, 1994). As we can conclude from such findings, student's motivation can be surface from more than just interest in culture. Such realizations reveal that all individuals can be motivated, teachers just need to find which to intrigue them.

In the instances above, discussion on motivation is based upon the idea that individuals do not need the second language. However, there are many circumstances that make learning this second language a need rather than a desire. Minority children are one group who must learn English rapidly in order to progress in school. Unlike the cases above, their livelihood and education depend on such. Most of these children enter American schools with little to no speaking capabilities, despite maybe a couple words. Although, the odds are not in these children's favor, such articles reveal how such cases lend for more motivation and speed in learning (Skutnabb-Kangas, 1995).

Minority children make up a large portion of individuals who learn a second language. Many travel to foreign lands to escape dangerous situations such as war or famine. These children do not dwell on the difficulties of learning, rather the opportunities and regained safety. Many parents have also opted to teach newborns dual languages as well. According to Diamond (2010): "Kovács and Mehler, tested confusing game tasks on "monolingual" infants and "crib bilingual" infants-i.e., infants reared from birth to hear and eventually to speak two languages, because mother and father speak to the infant in different languages" (Diamond, p. 322, 2010). He discovered that these crib bilinguals were actually able to pick up on several vocabulary words of both languages. As we can see, learning a language is accomplished by even the youngest of individuals, therefore, if they can learn, anyone can. This only strengthens my idea that everyone should strive to learn a second language.

There are many benefits that surround understanding and comprehending another language. As I can personally stand for as well, being that I know both Arabic and English fluently. By glancing at how motivation is gained, as well as the fact that young children and even infants have such capacities to learn another language, we can move forward to see the benefits that are gained by doing so. One of the interesting revelations that dwell from learning another language is the fact that bilingual individuals are needed for mediating purposes.

Bilinguals have the capacity to view situations from two different points of view. This is due to the reality of them being forced to learn two different languages, cultures, and dialects. The students who learn two languages receive the hidden benefit of being able to mediate in an unbiased way (Skutnabb-Kangas, 1995). This is an example of a hidden benefit that many people are unaware of. Having the capacity to be completely neutral in arguments is a much-needed quality in this world today. Not to mention that if individuals could only learn the language of their countries, translations would not exist. And without translations, we could not understand ancient history or the everyday lives of other civilizations.

Another interesting benefit of learning another language, is the control, and understanding of oneself. Although, such ideas have not been vastly studied, Pavlenko made it the focus of his study. Which was to showcase the relationship between emotions of bilingual individuals. For those who only speak one language, they do not understand how emotions can be expressed differently between different languages and cultures as well. Communication is very complex, and what is acceptable to say in one language, is not recommended to say in another. Through this experiment, bilinguals were studied on how emotions play a role in language. Emotions are thought upon and expressed differently from language to language (Pavlenko, 2007).

For instance, sadness is not always thought as a bad thing in my language of Arabic. We understand that although the emotion itself is not good, we would not be able to fully enjoy happiness without it. This is only one of the many ways in which emotions and language are relatable. In this book, the author also explores the question of whether or not the first language is the language of the heart. He answered this question claiming that although the first language is the one of the heart, the second language can also share the space. Just because individuals will always share a special connection with their first language, does not necessarily mean that a second would interfere with that (Pavlenko, 2007).

By understanding how to different cultures deal with emotions and coping, we can better understand who we are. This relies on the fact that two different ideas are entering our minds at any given time. We gain the capacity of understanding if we are dealing with a situation rationally or irrationally. Inconclusion, that learning more than one language can significantly improve one's emotions and coping mechanisms as well (Pavlenko, 2007). Emotions are very difficult to deal with and learning another language can significantly improve one's emotions and coping mechanisms as well (Pavlenko, 2007). Emotions are very difficult to deal with and learning another language can significantly As we saw above, parents whom speak two different languages to their children had success in the infant picking up both languages. However, when time passes before such methods are introduced, it becomes more difficult to learn the second language.

Another fact that disqualifies the desire to learn another language is the idea that one will lose the first language. This is referred to as subtractive bilingualism because when one languages are added the second is subtracted. Fillmore claims this to occur due to reasons of processing. For instance, we fixate on grammar and vocabulary of the language being learned and forget about what we know about the first language. However, adverse effects occur when native language is the primary language of the household. This greatly disadvantages the learner, because their surroundings only include initial languages rather than the one being studied. A good mixture of both languages simultaneously is ideal for learning and comprehension (Fillmore, 1991).

As we can conclude, learning a language does not come without strife. There are several forces that will lead you in the direction of not learning, however, there are also equal motivational and beneficial stances that try to persuade audiences into doing so. Whether you are faced with the need or desire to learn, motivation plays a leading role in one's outcomes of learning a second language.

There are several hidden benefits that one can redeem after learning their second language. Some of these benefits include: controlling and coping of emotions, being more cultures, mediating, and translation. Some infants have the capacity to learn another language due to their parents speaking dual languages to them in the crib. If these undeveloped brains are able to learn, anyone can learn. Not only does learning a second language help the individuals, rather society as well. Many benefits of communication and understanding can occur from this experience. We should all strive to be bilingual.


  1. Butzkamm, W. (2003). We only learn language once. The role of the mother tongue in FL classrooms: death of a dogma. Language learning journal, 28(1), 29-39. Butzkamm makes an interesting point in this article on learning another language. They claim that a person can only learn one language once, and anything after than is not fully learned.This is due to the functionality of our brains. They make the argument that we can to some extent learn a second language, but it is never the same. Even when we do learn another, we are basing many aspects of the first language that we are taught. The article is pretty credible, considering the authors credentials of having a PHD in education and all. Most of the time, we translate what is being said first in our native languages. The authors also make claims regarding the teacher-based learning of another language, as well as the parent roles. These can make extreme complications in such cases. If one is inconsistent, then the other areas will suffer as well, which only helps add credit to the authors point of view on such areas. Also, the language of the mother is also the most influential of the language spoken by the child. Whichever language this may be, the child will certainly speak this more vividly than the other learned.
  2. Diamond, J. (2010). The benefits of multilingualism. Science, 330(6002), 332-333. The benefits of multilingualism are explored in this essay drafted by Diamond. Diamond uses science to help prove points, and many discoveries showcase that cognitive function can improve by learning another language. Science is used by examining the different areas of the brain that are influenced by multilingualism. Not to mention, that no one is too young or old to see these benefits. Young and old can receive the same benefits of learning another language, which can begin in the uterus of pregnant women. Although, logically, these babies cannot quite speak yet, just by hearing another language in the womb, they can pick up on it later on. This article is well designed and even includes images, it is an easy read for even those who don't speak English as a first language to read. Diamond appears to be quite credible, because he backs up his facts and logos statements. Those who do learn another language have a better outlook on life and proactive future ahead of them. Not to mention, those who speak two languages can almost always find work in translating for companies, which includes great salaries.
  3. Dörnyei, Z. (1994). Motivation and motivating in the foreign language classroom. The modern language journal, 78(3), 273-284. Dornvei claims that in most schools, and colleges, learning a second language is required. Many students do not get to choose which language in many cases either, because they are somewhat limited. This is not always true for colleges, however, trying to find one that fits the time slot will deem impossible at times. Dornyei explores how to get students excited to learn a new language. Motivation factors play a leading role as this essay shows. There are several social dimensions of motivation as stated repeatedly, however, all yield a more rounded individual, while showcasing few negative components. Dornvei, in this article explains how difficult it is to motivate a student who has no desire to learn the language, however, with the proper maneuvers and added motivation, the student can see why learning such a language can be extremely beneficial. Motivation can be found in cognition and vocalization as well. Each type for be specific to that student, because students are diverse and require different influences to awaken the desire to learn. This source is highly credible due to where it is published, which is a journal dedicated to modern language. These ideas are important, because when trying to answer my topic question, I want to fully showcase all advantages and disadvantages of the topic at hand.
  4. Fillmore, L. W. (1991). When learning a second language means losing the first. Early childhood research quarterly, 6(3), 323-346. In this article Fillmore provides evidence based research on how negative consequences can conclude. He claimed in this study, that one learns a second language, they lose the first. Although, this is certainly not always the case, especially in households where the first language is primarily spoken, however, if it is not used as much, it can easily be lost. In this experiment, minority children were studied. This was published in a well-established research journal, showcasing credibility. The intended audience of this selection would be those desiring to learn another language, or studying the results of it. The author makes marks on how second languages are necessary for such persons because of society. Without learning these languages, they cannot function or do tasks. Since these children are already forced into learning English as a second language, they made perfect examples for such studies. This made for a strength of the study, because it didn't cost anything to study these subjects. Subtractive bilingualism is the terminology for losing the first language as described throughout the article. Many nationalities were studied in this experiment such as Arabs, Mexicans, and Asians from both the East and Southeast areas. Having a mix of people helped with this study.
  5. Genc, B., & Bada, E. (2005). Culture in language learning and teaching. The Reading Matrix, 5(1). In this article, Genc and Bada use a different view of why learning another language is important is used. Unlike the strictly educational based reasoning, this article examines the culture influences and diversity aspects to conclude the importance of such. Most articles that are available online, speak only of educational components, but little regard is shown to the understanding others or being more culturally aware. Despite the opinion of many, by doing so, we can become closer to others and start to accept these differences, while learning that we are more alike than different as the authors display in this academic journal. Students from middle eastern based countries, such as Turkey were examined in this study. It was done to see the effects of learning about different cultures and languages. Natural observations and surveys were conducted in order to determine the results. Individuals felt significantly more cultured from learning even a few words in another language. Almost all students were pleased and felt that these teachings are necessary for all.
  6. Goriot, C., Denessen, E., Bakker, J., & Droop, M. (2016). Benefits of being bilingual? The relationship between pupils' perceptions of teachers' appreciation of their home language and executive functioning. International Journal Of Bilingualism, 20(6), 700-713. doi:10.1177/1367006915586470 Goriot, Denessen, Et. Al. examine several of the key benefits of learning a second language in this article written in 2016, making the claims close in time to current. Unlike other benefit related articles reviewed, this one examines unique circumstances of the topic. This experiment was conducted to view appreciation of home language, perception of teachers, and executive functioning. Participants in this included Dutch- Germans, and Dutch-Turks. It was done so by examining bilingual students placed in countries not native to them. Data and analysis was conducted by generated computers, which revealed, that greater appreciation of their home language was from Dutch-German participants, compared to Dutch-Turkish pupils. One very interesting result from this study claimed "Originality and significance: This study demonstrates that bilingual advantages cannot be dissociated from the influence of the sociolinguistic context of the classroom. Thereby, it stresses the importance of culturally responsive teaching" (1). Such discoveries helped a lot in regard to the knowledge base on such topics as well as understandings.
  7. Pavlenko, A. (2007). Emotions and multilingualism. Cambridge University Press. Although much research has been conducted regarding bilingualism, not much has surfaced on emotions of these topics. Pavlenko, in his research was determined to reveal learning another language has any correlation to the degree of emotion one feels. Some of the other major questions the author aims to discuss include: Do they perceive and express emotions similarly or differently in their respective languages? Does the first language remain forever the language of the heart? What role do emotions play in second language learning and in language attrition? and why do some writers prefer to write in their second language? All of which were answered and helped fill in several missing links in understanding bilingualism. The author also makes the conclusion, that learning more than one language can significantly improve one's emotions and coping mechanisms as well. The intended audience of this selection is those either learning another language already or looking into it. Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (1995). Multilingualism and the education of minority children. Policy and practice in bilingual education: Extending the foundations, 40-62. Skutnabb-Kangas in this essay reveals the several benefits that come from minority children in America learning the second language of English. This research revealed that learning another language for minority children is necessary. Such children do not have much of a choice in the matter, rather they must learn it to progress in the education system of the United States. Since the motives of learning another language, are different than simply choosing to learn another language, we can expect differences in the experiences. Social components play a true motivation in these studies. The author shows evidence that children trying to socialize with others who speak the language they are trying to learn, they will be more quickly to learn and want to learn said language. This is a way in which logical can be used. Since these ideas use logic of facts to make points. Not to mention, that if these children are emerged in the language, they will more easily learn it. This is true because they are constantly surrounded by it. However, those who are learning another language just for fun do not get such luxuries of being surrounded by it.

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