Like many members in my family and friendship circle I always thought that it would be fantastic to be able to communicate with other people in their own language. However, all through my school years languages were never my priority. A common problem among first-language English speakers is that there are so many first and second language speakers throughout the work that it is easier to cope with just English when we travel overseas.
However, my postgraduate degree opened my eyes to the ignorance which I had manifested in myself for so many years. Out of 26 enrolled students I was among the 3 students who did not know a second language. We also had a semester in Barcelona at Pompeu Fabra University, where I felt privileged, but slightly embarrassed, that all the courses were in English. Those experiences had a galvanising effect because I saw that my friends could access things which I could not because of their bilingualism.
For the last 6 months I have been learning French in the Alliance Francaise, and I aim to gain my beginners and then intermediate qualifications.
Flexibility when travelling:
The most obvious benefit of learning another language is that you will be able to communicate better when you are travelling in a country which speaks that language. As a French speaker I would be able to communicate with approximately 220 million other fluent or partial French speakers in 5 continents around the world. When you say that to yourself, you get a second wind of energy to keep learning when it becomes tiring and seemingly impossible to learn any more.
More work opportunities:
Secondly, you have an even wider range of opportunities to work in a variety of sectors. Many of my friends learned English, because it would open opportunities in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, as well as all the countries where English is used as the lingua franca that everyone can use as a second language.
Even though you will need specific skills and experience outside of a language for jobs which you do overseas, the knowledge will still give you a foothold that would be completely inaccessible to you otherwise.
Meet and build better relationships with non-English speakers:
I have many friends who have English as a second language. However, I know that when we speak in English there are things which they can only express in their own language that I am missing out on.
Also, have not under-estimated how much work people have invested in learning a second or third language and it build stronger bonds when your friends see you investing in learning their language.
Since I have started learning French I have focused on coming to terms with the different rules of grammar and sentence structure. This has led me to think more critically about the grammar and structure in English. Once you have managed to break out of the routine of one set of grammar and structure it will be easier to adapt again to learn a third language.