Learning a Language Is a Great New Year's Resolution: Here are Ten Reasons Why

Claire Handscombe


Still wondering what to choose as your 2021 New Year’s Resolution? Let me humbly suggest learning a language or brushing up on one you already know. Here’s why.

1. It’s tangible.

“Be more organised” or “be on time” are (in my experience) not only doomed to failure, they are also somewhat nebulous. At the end of 2021, what will you have to show for them? Admittedly, not having irritated your friends by always arriving late is a worthy goal, but wouldn’t it be nice to end the year with something new in your life?

2. Holidays

You won’t get ripped off quite as easily as the other tourists. You’ll be able to get exactly what you ask for, because you will know — for example — to ask for a real actual coffee with milk the Spanish way rather than the instant rubbish they serve the other Brits. You’ll also instantly endear yourself to the locals, and instantly be liked more than those who don’t bother.

3. Work opportunities

Like good spelling, language ability sets you apart amid the thick pile of job applications. If you’re in sales, potential clients will warm to you if you make an effort to communicate with them in their language.

And if nothing else, you can give up your boring job and becoming a roving language tutor, freelancing your way around the world.

4. Brain health

Research suggests that learning another language can stave off the onset of Alzheimer’s.

5. Social life

The more languages you speak, the greater your pool of potential friends — and mates. It’s also a conversation-spurring answer to the dreaded question, “what’s new with you?”.

7. it’s fun

Yes, really! It gives you an excuse to watch and rewatch your favourite TV shows. It’s language study!

In fact, it will make you feel virtuous even when combined with activities that you might otherwise be secretly ashamed of: listening to dodgy European pop you secretly enjoy, for example.

Oh, and it’s an excuse to buy stationery — what’s not to love about that?

8. It’s character-building.

It teaches you bravery, humility, and patience with yourself.

9. It’s attractive.

Even a BuzzFeed quiz thinks so.

10. Learn other things

Learning other languages helps you understand your own better. It might even help you with your English spelling and grammar. (I’ve taught a few people about when to correctly use “whom” when we’ve discussed the relevant chapter in the French book.) And as, for example, you aim to read something from the newpaper in your chosen language every day you might find yourself learning about all kinds of subjects.

As Wittgenstein put it, “the limits of my language is the limit of my world”. Broaden your horizons in 2021! That sounds good, doesn’t it?

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Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved to Washington, DC, in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but really, let’s be honest, because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the host of the Brit Lit Podcast, a monthly show about news and views from UK books and publishing; the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan; and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives.

Washington, DC

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