By Gerald Erichsen
Updated April 12, 2018
If you want to know why you should learn Spanish, look first at who already is: For starters, residents of the United States, a bunch not known for conquering monoligualism, are studying Spanish in record numbers. Spanish, too, is becoming of greater importance in Europe, where it often is the foreign language of choice after English. And it's no wonder that Spanish is a popular second or third language: with some 400 million speakers, it's the fourth most commonly spoken language in the world (after English, Chinese and Hindustani), and according to some counts it has more native speakers than English does. It is an official language on four continents and is of historical importance elsewhere.
The numbers alone make Spanish a good choice for those wanting to learn another tongue. But there are plenty of other reasons to learn Spanish. Here are a few:
Knowing Spanish Improves Your English
Much of the vocabulary of English has Latin origins, much of which came to English by way of French. Since Spanish is also a Latin language, you will find as you study Spanish that you have a better understanding of your native vocabulary. Similarly, Spanish and English share Indo-European roots, so their grammars are similar. There is perhaps no more effective way to learn English grammar than by studying the grammar of another language, for the study forces you to think about how your language is structured.
Your Neighbors May Speak Spanish
Not all that many years ago, the Spanish-speaking population of the United States was confined to the Mexican border states, Florida and New York City. But no more. Even when I lived less than 100 kilometers from the Canadian border, there were Spanish-speaking people living on the same street as I did. Wherever I've lived in recent years, knowing Spanish has proven invaluable in speaking with others who don't know English.
Spanish Is Great for Travel
Yes, it is perfectly possible to visit Mexico, Spain and even Ecuatorial Guinea without speaking a word of Spanish. But it isn't nearly half as much fun. I remember when I met some mariachis on top of one of the pyramids near Mexico City. Because I spoke Spanish, they wrote down the words for me so I could sing along. It turned out to be one of my most memorable travel experiences. Time and time again while traveling in Mexico, Central America and South America I have had doors opened to me simply because I speak Spanish, allowing me to see and do things that many other visitors do not.
Learning a Language Helps You Learn Others
If you can learn Spanish, you'll have a head start in learning the other Latin-based languages such as French and Italian. And it will even help you learn Russian and German, since they too have Indo-European roots and have some characteristics (such as gender and extensive conjugation) that are present in Spanish but not English. And I wouldn't be surprised if learning Spanish might even help you learn Japanese or any other non-Indo-European language, since intensively learning the structure of a language can give you a reference point for learning others.
Spanish Is Easy
Spanish is one of the easiest foreign languages to learn for English speakers. Much of its vocabulary is similar to English's, and written Spanish is almost completely phonetic: Look at almost any Spanish word and you can tell how it is pronounced.
Knowing Spanish May Help You Find Work
If you're in the United States and work in one of the helping professions including medicine and education, you'll find your opportunities expand by knowing Spanish. And wherever you live, if you're in any occupation that involves international trade, communications or tourism, you'll similarly find opportunities to use your new language skills.
Spanish Is Fun!
Whether you enjoy talking, reading, or mastering challenges, you'll find all of them in learning Spanish. For many people, there's something inherently enjoyable about successfully speaking in another tongue. Perhaps that's one reason children sometimes speak in Pig Latin or devise secret codes of their own. Although learning a language can be work, the efforts pay off quickly when you finally get to use your skills.
For many people, Spanish offers the most rewards with the least effort of any foreign language. It's never too late to begin learning.