No one can deny that speaking a foreign language is a skill which looks great on your résumé. Here in Spain, an intermediate level of English is also needed nowadays in order to graduate from university and, if you're thinking about a career in education, a qualification in a foreign language scores you extra points in the government exams, particularly as many Spanish public schools are now bilingual. That said, foreign languages can be so much more than simply a way to score points, if you let them become a part of your daily life.
The Frankish King and Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne supposedly once said:
To have another language is to possess a second soul.
This couldn't be more true. And he should know, given that he spoke at least 3 other languages apart from his native tongue. Speaking a foreign language is like possessing a magic key that opens the box to a part of your brain that perhaps you never knew could exist. Some people even have a different voice when they speak another language. Having this "second soul" adds value to your personal and professional life. By speaking a foreign language you almost undoubtedly establish relationships with others, with whom perhaps you couldn't in your native tongue. If you're speaking another's native language, you will often be applauded just for trying and maybe even viewed in a different light.
By speaking the language of the country in which you live, work or travel to, you are immediately treated with respect and are able to access a completely different level of that society because language is the key to understanding culture and customs. It may allow you to enjoy the experience more as you're free of the stresses of making yourself understood and cultural differences won't seem like such a shock.
While it might be true that youngsters can pick up a new language more easily, an adult has something a child may not have; the motivation and understanding of the need and value of learning something, which is the key element to being a successful language learner. In addition to this, language learning is good for your mental health as it keeps your brain active. Scientific research even shows that being bilingual may prevent the onset of dementia. Now that’s definitely one of the best reasons to speak a foreign language later in life!
If you know you need English to get that qualification or to stand a better chance in the global job market, I can't stress this enough: plan ahead. Think of going from A1 to B2 level English as a diet where you're trying to lose weight. If you've got a lot of weight to lose, or in this case, a lot of English to learn, then the healthiest and most sustainable way to do it is over the course of several years. Crash diets, similar to crash English courses, rarely work long term and operation bikini (or operation First Certificate) in 3 months can be overkill; to the point that after the operation's over, people seldom want to continue. And what are the best diets which help you achieve your weight goals? The ones which most easily can become part of your lifestyle without being too restrictive. Find ways to make English part of your life. This doesn't mean seriously hitting the grammar books all the time or forcing yourself to learn the Oxford Dictionary by heart.
Think about what you like to do and try to fit English around it. If you're a cinephile, watch films in original version. If you're into books, try reading your favourite in English. If you love socialising and meeting new people, then join an English language exchange or conversation group. If you combine English with something you enjoy, you're more likely to keep it up, so once exam time or an English job opportunity comes around, you're already halfway there!
Feel free to share ideas and opinions here. It's your space!