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Bonus: Your brain will literally get bigger. 

Melanie Lieberman
March 13, 2017

We already know that learning another language is pretty useful. It makes finding a bathroom abroad much easier, and studies also show it makes you more attractive and more logical.

But according to a Quartz article by Gabrielle Hogan-Brun—author of Linguanomics: What is the Market Potential of Multilingualism?—speaking a second tongue can also make you a better employee. And not for the reason you might think.  

A report by the Economist Intelligence Unit showed that 67 percent of international company executives found multi-cultural teams to be more innovative.

Hogan-Brun noted that there’s more than cultural sensitivity at play in these working relationships. She referred to something called linguistic determinism, which suggests our native tongue impacts the way we view the world.

A German speaker, Hogan-Brun explained, might interpret a problem differently than a French speaker, simply because of subconscious associations. A Mandarin speaker, on the other hand, might make a different connection than an English speaker.

Basically, multi-lingual teams are likely to be more creative than teams working in a single language.

There’s also a physiological difference between a monolingual and a bilingual brain. Individuals with secondary language skills have more gray matter (particularly in the areas of the brain involved with thinking abstractly and forming ideas). This becomes more pronounced with proficiency.

In the aforementioned Economist survey, many senior officials noted the importance of foreign language proficiency. At almost half of the companies surveyed, one in every five positions requires fluency in another language.

But it’s not just the ability to communicate with colleagues and clients in a second language that’s valuable.

There are no less than five benefits of learning a new language. Skilled polyglots are likely to be more creative, analytical, and to have longer attention spans. They’re even better decision makers, because thinking in a non-native tongue puts distance between emotions and memories, allowing for rational—rather than impulsive—conclusions. 

Ultimately, Hogan-Brun argued, they’re all-around better employees.

So learning Spanish, whether it’s from Grandma or a conversational Chatbot, might be seriously helpful for your trip to Madrid. But there’s more evidence than ever that doing so will make you way more attractive to potential employers. And, quite likely, a top-performer on your team.

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