There are many studies on how learning a second language can benefit you, starting from further developing your skill set thus increasing your career opportunities and all the way to reaping cognitive advantages like being smarter, better multitasking, memory improvement, changes in one's perception and decision-making process.
Benefits Of Learning French For Your Future
In today’s world, speaking one foreign language is not enough. Students that completed a French immersion program abroad have better chances of finding a job, whether abroad or at home. The ability to speak French is a great advantage in the international job market because it opens doors to French companies like L’Oreal, Renault, Auchan, Chanel, Cartier and many more. It is also important to note that French is the official language of many international organizations such as the International Olympic Committee, United Nations, FIFA and UNESCO.
French as a foreign language is the second most frequently taught language in the world after English. The International Organization of Francophonie has 51 member states and governments. Of these, 28 countries have French as an official language. French is the only language other than English spoken on five continents. French and English are the only two global languages. (Alliance Française de Cincinnati)
Have this in mind when you sign up for your first French lesson for beginners or while doing your French language activities.
When is best to start learning a second language?
Extensive research and testing have proven that ‘younger is better’ when it comes to second language acquisition. Studies have shown that children who studied a foreign language at elementary school (between the age of 6 and 12) tend to do better on standardized tests than their peers that didn’t study a foreign language.
A similar study that focused on the verbal achievement of middle school students who studied a foreign language yielded similar results. Middle school students who studied a foreign language performed significantly better in language mechanics and reading comprehension on the Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills than a group of control students who participated in the Challenge Reading program. (Carr, C.G. 1994. The effect of middle school foreign language study on verbal achievement as measured by three subtests of the Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills).
In the past, this was difficult to prove. Thanks to technology, using brain scans and innovative methods in statistics, suggest that our capacity (and motivation) for learning new languages decreases over time.
Children generally can spend more time attending French immersion programs or French language activities than adults who have many competing demands. The motivation to fit in is also higher in children and the habits of pronunciation and grammar of their first language are less deeply engraved which makes taking French lessons for beginners much easier.
In addition to this overall and gradual advantage for younger learners, there is one notable qualitative difference: even very good older language learners differ from younger ones when it comes to using grammar correctly and consistently. (Monika Schmid; The best age to learn a second language; Independent)
Research suggests that foreign language study “enhances children’s understanding of how language itself works and their ability to manipulate language in the service of thinking and problem-solving.” (Cummins 1981)
“The power to learn a language is so great in the young child that it doesn’t seem to matter how many languages you seem to throw their way...They can learn as many spoken languages as you can allowing them to hear systematically and regularly at the same time. Children just have this capacity. Their brain is ripe to do this…there doesn’t seem to be any detriment to....develop[ing] several languages at the same time” according to Dr. Susan Curtiss, UCLA Linguistics professor. (Curtain & Dahlberg 2004)
Research indicates that children who are exposed to a foreign language at a young age achieve higher levels of cognitive development at an earlier age. (Bialystok & Hakuta 1994; Fuchsen 1989)
There seem to be some “pockets” of grammar that even advanced older learners persistently fail to use correctly, while children master them early on and with ease. This observation is at the heart of the idea of a “critical period”, a limited time window, usually assumed to last until puberty, during which the human brain is specifically sensitive to linguistic input, including grammar. After this window has closed, it is assumed that grammatical rules have to be taught explicitly and become difficult to internalise. (Monika Schmid; The best age to learn a second language; Independent)
Why is it beneficial to learn a second language
Beyond the intellectual benefits, knowledge of a foreign language such as French facilitates travel, enhances career opportunities, and enables one to learn more about different peoples and cultures. (National Research Council 2007)
In his article for The New York Times, Yudhijit Bhattacharjee states, “The collective evidence from a number of such studies suggests that the bilingual experience improves the brain’s so-called executive function — a command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks. These processes include ignoring distractions to stay focused, switching attention willfully from one thing to another and holding information in mind — like remembering a sequence of directions while driving.”
A 2016 University of Edinburgh study that assessed 33 students aged 18 to 78 who had taken part in a one-week Scottish Gaelic course found an increase in several aspects of mental alertness — regardless of age — in students when compared to a group who had taken a non-language course and a group that had not taken a course at all. (5 unexpected benefits of learning another language; Business Insider)
After one week, improvements in attention were found in both groups participating in intensive courses, but only those learning a second language were significantly better than those not involved in any courses. This improvement was found for all ages, from 18 to 78 years, which researchers say demonstrates the benefits of language learning also in later life. Nine months after the initial course all those who had practised five hours or more per week improved from their baseline performance. (Language learning aids attention; University of Edinburgh).
Who should learn French?
Whether you’re a teenager thinking about your future career, a university student planning a gap year in a French-speaking country or an adult considering changing career paths or retiring in France, learning French by taking a few French lessons for beginners or doing French immersion programs abroad is a good start.
“Speaking French opens up study opportunities at renowned French universities and business schools, ranked among the top higher education institutions in Europe and the world. Students with a good level of French are eligible for French government grants to enrol in postgraduate courses in France in the discipline of their choice and qualify for internationally recognised degrees.” (10 good reasons for learning French; France Diplomatie).
“It is easy for students to make contact with French speakers of their own age, as pen pals or via the Internet. There are many different exchange programmes in France that offer rewarding experiences. Thousands of French schools are twinned with counterparts around the world, creating links with the world’s largest educational network.”(17 good reasons for parents and school principals to choose French; France Diplomatie).
During travels to a French-speaking country, the experience obtained from French immersion programs will be useful when getting to know other cultures.”The ability to speak even a little French makes it so much more enjoyable to visit Paris and all the regions of France (from the mild climes of the Cote d’Azur to the snow-capped peaks of the Alps via the rugged coastline of Brittany) and offers insights into French culture, mentality and way of life. French also comes in handy when travelling to Africa, Switzerland, Canada, Monaco, Seychelles and other places.” (17 good reasons for parents and school principals to choose French; France Diplomatie).
Additionally, the ability to communicate in more than one language is becoming increasingly important, especially today when the integrated global business community is ever more present. Communicating directly with new clients and companies in their native language is one of the first steps to founding a lasting, stable international business relationship. Being able to do this automatically puts any multilingual person miles ahead of his or her peers in the competition for jobs and high-prestige positions. (Leonardo de Valoes; Importance of Language – Why Learning a Second Language is Important; Trinity Washington University).
“Proficiency in French remains a highly sought-after skill among UK employers, with 49 per cent rating it as useful for their organisations.” (Graduate jobs: Best languages to study; Telegraph). According to this survey, French was ranked as #2 among the top 10 languages to study to get a job.
Where can I learn French?
Learning French has never been easier. On the market, there are many methods that make learning French fun and enjoyable no matter the student's age. If you’re just getting started there are great French lessons for beginners programs in Paris, Bordeaux and Montpellier. And teenagers or adventurers who like to combine their studies with excursions will love French immersion programs or French language activities in Juan-les-Pins or Antibes.
As you can see, learning French has many benefits. Whether you want to expand your knowledge with a few French lessons, to further advance your proficiency and improve your career chances with real-life conversations, be a better multitasker or simply make your travels enjoyable and pleasant there are many great French immersions programs for everyone in Paris, Bordeaux, Montpellier and Cote d’Azur coastline.