The Top 5 Reasons Learning another Language can Improve your Communication Skills

Being an effective communicator is a strong skillset to have in life. Communication can be hard and the complexities of it grow ever more difficult in a fully remote environment. The 6th Agile Principle focuses on communication and states,

“The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.”

I have been living in France for the past two months. For context, my husband is French and that has inspired me to learn how to speak French fluently. My journey to becoming bilingual is not over. It has helped me realize how learning another language is a great way to directly increase one’s communication skills.

Here are the Top 5 reasons why you should pursue learning a new language and visiting a foreign country if communication is something you struggle with.

  1. You Learn Whether You are an Introverted or Extroverted person.

How bad do you want to talk? How important is it to you? I am extroverted. I love to talk. Communication is especially important to me. Not having the words to express how I feel makes me feel stunted, like a person attempting to walk without legs. Being extroverted, I am naturally inspired to engage in conversation. I get energized through it. I feel satisfied and proud when I can have a conversation with someone who does not speak English fluently. You will quickly discover where you land on the spectrum when communication is hard. You will learn what your baseline is and how to utilize it to your advantage.

  • You Learn to Be a Better Observer, through Nonverbal Communication.  (Turn your camera on)

When my French in-laws stayed with me for the first time, I invited a friend over for lunch to meet them. My husband was working so I did not have my normal translator. Before she left she said, “Are you sure you do not speak French? I think you communicated very well with them”. I was able to communicate with them and others before I had the vocabulary to do so. Context, body language and hand gestures can keep a conversation flowing. It is possible to observe all these things and communicate moderately well or at the very least, glean context on the situation. It is also amazing how well you can get to know someone without understanding a word they say. For example, my father in-law has been yelling at cars on the road for years, I understood the sentiment before the words. He does not appreciate bad drivers and does not have the most patience. However now, I also understand half of the remarks he says as well. Not understanding someone fully, forces you to pay more attention. If you struggle reading people, I challenge you to get out of your comfort zone and try to assimilate somewhere foreign. I promise you will grow!

  • You Learn What Kind of Communicator You Are.

What vocabulary words do you use most often? How rich in descriptions are your sentences? Do you use extreme words or are you more subtle in your approach? Do you want to be 100% correct when you speak, or do you just go for it? I love to tell an entertaining story. I enjoy making fun of myself and others. I enjoy gossiping. This forces me to learn an abundance of adjectives and transitional words. They are meaningful for me. I use words like beaucoup (a lot) even when I say thank you.  I am not detail oriented, and I just go for it. My communication style is part jokester, part exaggerator and is rarely grammatically correct. These are all things that I am forced to think about when speaking another language. It helps me understand how my own brain works, what traits I like about myself, and where I can improve.   

  • You Learn how to Listen.

Communication is a two-way street. Talking is pointless if you cannot understand what the listeners says in response. Likewise, when you exit the wrong train station in a foreign country and need to understand just how bad of a mistake you made, listening becomes crucial. Most friends and family have noticed how well my Mother-in-Law understands my poor pronunciation. Everyone finds it very enduring. I feel like a toddler needing my mommy’s help, but I am grateful for her. The fact that she can help me does not surprise me. She is an excellent listener. She is the quiet, introverted type, and is always listening in the background. I on the other hand, need improvement. I get overly excited. I takeover conversations. Learning a new language has helped me understand this is a big area of improvement for me.

  • You Learn How to Communicate What is Important to You.

Living in a foreign country and speaking another language helps you understand what is important to you. This trip I have added several words to my vocabulary that revolve around playing tennis, hiking, watching soccer, playing cards, and playing volleyball. These are all activities I enjoy doing. Learning the vocabulary has helped me understand how important being active is to my happiness. I know the word for goat cheese after accidently ordering it 5 times and hating my meal each time. I am starting to get good at French time (military time) after several mistakes, assuming activities were at night, when they were in the morning.  I could go on and on. These words are me. They are my unique personality, comprised of my likes and dislikes. They help me understand who I am from sheer observation. Think about the words you use, how they can help you understand yourself better, and how you could more directly convey them if you were speaking a foreign language.

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