5 Hidden Benefits of Learning French (even if You Don’t Plan to Use It)

The Benefits of learning French (even if you don't plan to use it)

French is a very useful language if you hope to travel someday – but what are the benefits of learning French, if you don’t see yourself travelling? While most of my students have chosen French as an elective, there are always some who don’t want to be there. Even the ones who did chose French don’t always see themselves as ever visiting a French-speaking country someday, as their families don’t travel much or don’t have the funds to do so.

While I’ve had MANY students end up going to France eventually – even if they didn’t imagine they ever would while in my class – it’s hard for them to picture it happening when they are sitting in your room as a 15-year old. Part of our job is to get them to see themselves going beyond the walls of the classroom, but that can be a tough sell. While some of the benefits of learning French may seem obvious to us as teachers, they may not be so obvious to our students.

Learning a language like French can seem daunting, especially when it’s not something you plan to use in the future. I’ve been asked “why should I learn French?” and “why does this matter, I’m never going to France!” This is when it comes in handy being able to discuss the many benefits to learning French that go beyond being able to communicate with native speakers. Knowing French can help you become a more well-rounded person and gain valuable skills. Here are some of my go-to responses about why studying French is useful even if students don’t think they will ever use it.

Cultural Appreciation

One of the most important aspects of learning a new language is understanding and appreciating the culture it comes from. By learning about France through its language, students gain an understanding of its culture and people that goes beyond what they can learn from books or movies. One of the benefits of learning French is that it helps them become more tolerant and global citizens who have an open mind when it comes to different cultures. Students today are more likely to have interactions with people from around the world through use of video games and the internet, and it’s more enjoyable when you have some idea about the people you’re talking to.

As French teachers, I know that many of us are most comfortable teaching about France. But don’t forget that the French-speaking world extends far beyond the borders of metropolitan France. The fastest-growing part of la francophonie is in Africa. Students who may not have been particularly interested in learning French when it is presented as “that language that crusty old white guys speak” may change their mind when they instead see it as “a global language that people who look like me speak.”

Brain training

Learning a foreign language also helps improve cognitive function because it requires the use of memory, problem solving, and critical thinking skills. It forces the brain to form new pathways as students learn vocabulary and grammar rules which helps strengthen their neural connections and keeps their minds sharp as they age. Studies have shown that those who know multiple languages are better at multitasking than those who only speak one. Brains are very much “use it or lose it” things, so one of the longest-lasting benefits of learning French (or any language!) may be keeping dementia at bay.

While any language study can help you in this area, one of the benefits of learning French is that it shares so many words with English. I’m not talking about cognates – I’m referring to words that come to English via French. Learning French will help students to expand their vocabulary in English as they will have more exposure to words that they may not know in English, but that they can decipher by using the vocabulary they know in French.

Career opportunities

Even if students don’t plan on using their French skills themselves, knowing another language can open up potential career opportunities in the future. Companies are always looking for bilingual employees who can act as liaisons between cultures or translate documents from one language to another. Knowing French could be valuable in certain fields such as teaching, translating, journalism, marketing, or international law.

My students often ask me why they should learn French, since Spanish is so prevalent in the southwest US and therefore more useful. I explain that one of the benefits of learning French is that while there are thousands of people who learn Spanish, there aren’t nearly so many who learn French. For every job opening requiring language skills there might be 100 Spanish speakers but only 10 French speakers, so the competition isn’t nearly as fierce. And since most of my students already speak Spanish, they end up trilingual instead of bilingual, and even more appealing to a potential employer!

Boosting confidence

When we first start learning a language, everything is scary – we don’t want to speak because we are too scared of making mistakes. If you as a teacher encourage your students to take risks and make mistakes, and you make the primary goal of learning the language being able to communicate, your students will quickly learn that mistakes aren’t that big of a deal.

Once they are able to actually communicate in the language, it’s a game changer for many students. It’s no longer an academic exercise, it’s a useful tool! One of the benefits of learning French is that this confidence can transfer to other areas. Looking back at progress made can be a huge booster in our students’ self-esteem.

Better decision-making

Oddly enough, one of the hidden benefits of learning French is that you may become better at decision-making! Studies have been done that show that people who learn a second language can use a more rational, less emotional approach when solving problems. This only works when solving the problems in the second language, though! We tend to think more logically when using a language other than our mother tongue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *