Learning a foreign language has some obvious benefits: you can learn about other cultures, improve your job prospects and travel through foreign countries more easily. However, learning a foreign language has some disadvantages, too, such as the cost of language courses and the time it requires. Weighing the costs and benefits can help you decide whether learning a foreign language is the right choice for you.
Learning a foreign language can be expensive, especially if you take college courses or pay for private tutoring. It's possible to learn a foreign language from books or computer programs, which often cost less, but practicing speaking with others usually makes learning more fun and effective.
Learning a foreign language is challenging. Many languages have different systems of grammar, and some languages use a completely different alphabet and different sounds. And learning thousands of new vocabulary words isn't easy, either.
The opportunity cost of studying a foreign language is the value of what you could do instead. Studying a foreign language requires a significant investment of your time, effort and money. You could do something else with those resources, such as spend time with your family, improve your math skills, increase your reading speed, study for the SAT, plant a garden, exercise or learn a hobby, such as knitting.
Knowing a foreign language isn't useful to some people. For example, if you can't afford to travel or aren't interested in visiting other countries, you might never get to speak the language with natives. In addition, although speaking a foreign language makes traveling more fun, it's easy to get around in many countries while speaking English. Knowing a foreign language is a prized asset in some careers, but it's not helpful for many jobs. And some foreign languages, such as Latin or Ancient Greek, aren't even spoken anymore.
Rebekah Richards is a professional writer with work published in the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," "Brandeis University Law Journal" and online at tolerance.org. She graduated magna cum laude from Brandeis University with bachelor's degrees in creative writing, English/American literature and international studies. Richards earned a master's degree at Carnegie Mellon University.