You’ve heard all the importance of language learning. But does that mean everyone should pick up a foreign tongue?
Let me explain the rationale behind my reasons why you should not learn foreign languages.
Don’t get me wrong — I enjoy learning and teaching languages for the past 14 years.
And I’ll undoubtedly, continue to do the same for a long time to come. In fact, this is the only thing I do.
In this ever-connected world, international lingos can upgrade all aspects of your life — be it immigration, careers involving languages, study abroad, social and personal life.
To sum up, the prospects of foreign tongues are becoming more gratifying, lucrative, and rewarding.
I’m sure you also like the thought of language acquisition.
And to my knowledge, there is no disadvantages to language learning.
But do you actually need it?
While many have such a requirement, but you may not be one of them.
After replying to over 10,000 questions, I feel nearly 20% don’t have any such need. But since it usually demotivates others, I decided to postpone this article until now.
Table of Contents
- 9 Genuine Reasons Why not learn foreign languages
- 1. Too many choices make decisions harder
- 2. Lack of Motivation and Interest
- 3. You don’t have enough time to study
- 4. You don’t have any requirement
- 5. Language learning is difficult
- 6. Languages classes are Expensive
- 7. You’re too old to learn a foreign language
- 8. Lack of languages resources to help you
- 9. Language learning takes a freaking long time
- Final Thought
9 Genuine Reasons Why not learn foreign languages
I used to be the man on the picket fence, constantly arguing in favor of acquiring a second language.
But, over the years, I have realized that learning how to speak and use a new foreign language is not necessary for many.
For some, it doesn’t revolutionize your social and professional life.
In short, it is not worthwhile.
The truth is — life is short, and you shouldn’t waste time, money, and energy on something that is not helpful in your life.
Learning a language just for the sake of it rarely works!
I know many pro-second language learners out there ready to pounce on me and give my basket mouth a smash on the lips.
Before you give me Bruce Li’s kick, please take a moment to hear my side of the story.
If you are not yet convinced, here are nine reasons you shouldn’t bother to learn a foreign language.
1. Too many choices make decisions harder
According to Ethnologue, Of 7,111 known living languages, 33 different tongues have at least 50 million speakers.
These account for nearly three-quarters of the world’s population.
So which language should you consider?
Some argue that since English is the global language, thus, no need to pick another one.
Of course, this argument is not valid since roughly 80% of the world population doesn’t speak English.
There is also a genuine case of choosing famous European tongues like French, Spanish, or German.
The Chinese language is in demand, so that is a great option.
K-Pop and K-Drama are fashionable among girls, so youngsters wish to study the Korean language.
And if you’re into Anime to Yakitori, then learning Japanese is intriguing.
Then, the cultural aspects provide compelling reasons to learn Italian. If you wish to go to Russia, studying Russian implies the proper judgment.
Did I miss Arabic, Persian, Turkish, or less taught tongues, namely, Bahasa, Dutch, Portuguese, Malay, or Scandinavian languages?
The list is endless!
With a growing interest in over a dozen foreign tongues, it is tough to conclude which one is more suitable for you.
The opinions also vary from one linguist to another expert because of countless variables.
Although the ability to speak a second language opens a world of possibilities, your life does not stop if you don’t.
The fact is, over 90 percent of the world’s population are monolingual or bilingual with limited fluency in the second language.
They are happy being monolingual and seem to get by as larks comfortably speaking only one language.
Many who know only one language are flourishing in their fields, have families and lead a happy life.
They travel, eat to their satisfaction, and are oblivious that others communicate and express themselves in different tongues and ways.
So, if such a significant number of people can succeed by expressing just one language, why shouldn’t we go with our native tongue amid different discourses?
2. Lack of Motivation and Interest
Motivation and interest are two essential components for gaining a second language. Unfortunately, most people don’t have a genuine passion and lack relatable clarity.
Language is just a medium to achieve some goal, like lucrative language jobs or extra points for gaining a visa or permanent resident in Canada.
While it is not a bad idea to further your career, it is not as motivating as being interested in the language concerned.
While this may seem strange to you, the fact remains that you can only succeed in mastering a task if you have an interest in it.
If you lack passion for languages, you do not have the enthusiasm to study a different language for a long time.
Heck, there are so many other essential things to do with your life. The last thing you want now is to spend countless hours and resources studying a foreign language that will yield very little or no benefits to your life.
Life is short. Why waste the little time I have on frivolities.
Are you thinking this way, too? Think aloud, buddy!
3. You don’t have enough time to study
Let’s face it: can you succeed in any set task without devoting adequate time to it?
No, you can’t, and that’s just one reason you shouldn’t bother about studying a foreign language.
Let’s assume you have a full-time job.
With a demanding profession and a family to look after at home, do you think you will have enough free time to spare to learn a new language?
Will you spend 50 hours every month for the next three to five years to achieve higher competency in an international language test?
Oh, I know you would say, “Hey, some people do it.”
Of course, some do.
But have you observed the success ratio?
It would be close to 5% who have accomplished any meaningful high proficiency level, a prerequisite for a high-paying employment opening.
Leaving it midway is a waste of time, and you’ll have only yourself to blame when you fail to learn the target language.
Don’t take unnecessary stress since there is a limit the intellect and body can handle.
Consider all the aspects before you start this exciting journey.
If you’re determined and confident, begin by all means. And If you know you don’t have enough time on your hand, forget the idea of wanting to become a pro in one particular foreign language.
4. You don’t have any requirement
Why should I learn a foreign language when it is unnecessary to climb up the next promotion ladder at my workplace?
I’m being considered for a good-paying job in the fashion industry. The employer didn’t ask me to sit for a language class in Italian.
Please, tell me, why should I register for a course to clear an Italian language test?
You may not find something good enough as far as the combination of your academic qualifications, experience, and language skill is concerned.
Besides, you may not know which foreign language will be in demand for your next responsibility.
Here is the catch: if it isn’t an essential condition in any area of your human endeavor, think twice before enrolling in foreign language courses.
5. Language learning is difficult
Let’s go back a bit in memory lane; how did you perform in classes?
Were they easy or challenging languages to learn?
Many linguists want you to develop an optimistic mindset to learn a foreign tongue more comfortably. However, the fact remains that no foreign language is easy to understand.
Optimism never eradicates the fact that many language students struggle with vocabulary, syntax, grammar, morphology, dialects, and tones.
The experience can sometimes drive one to the point of insanity.
It’s no surprise when you come across many language learners shouting, “this language is way too hard” or “it ain’t straightforward or manageable enough.”
6. Languages classes are Expensive
When you think about expensive courses, you will understand why language learning is a money-consuming machine.
Don’t be deceived; you cannot learn a language without spending much on it unless you’re not keen on mastering that language.
Cheap or free materials online will never do you much good compared to the well-packaged and structured format offered by recognized and expensive programs provided by educational institutions and experienced teachers.
If you know you cannot afford such classes, exams, and resources, you have no business delving in at all.
Dust your bag and pocket, say goodbye to that foreign language. Or be prepared to shelve other critical necessities in your life, starve your belly, and fight World War 3 with the warms therein.
7. You’re too old to learn a foreign language
Much research has confirmed that children are far better at learning new languages than adults, and I don’t think it is a language myth either.
When you grow older, your level of assimilation and the brain’s cognitive resonance recede gradually.
Yes, you haven’t lost your intellect, but you can’t compete with how a kid’s brain will grasp facts at a specific time on a standard scale.
While children have shallow reasoning, they can easily digest and recall new information with breathtaking ease. However, an old brain appears to be saddled with all the responsibilities of leading an adult life.
Why should you put your old mind to the stress unless you want to knock and pack it up like a faulty vehicle engine in Mumbai?
8. Lack of languages resources to help you
Tell me, what can a farmer that goes to the farm without a cutlass do?
That’s precisely one of the primary reasons many people who have no resources chose not to learn foreign languages.
Do you want to learn Korean in Mumbai, Dutch in Delhi, or maybe Turkish in Hyderabad?
To my knowledge, there is no language institute offering these courses in the respective cities.
It can quickly become frustrating when you feel like your advancement stagnates for a shortage of adequate resources.
You can invest in software, apps, books, and instructors with the right cash and time.
With the right cash and time, you can invest in software, apps, books, and instructors.
You need a foreign language teacher to listen to and learn how to pronounce words and follow a systematic approach in the language you chose.
The customized content will help you strike your first conversation in the new language you are learning in as little as seven days.
If you have no access to these and other similar resources, grab your ideal new language learning thought by the jugular and toss it deep under the bed.
When you have no support, it will be challenging to achieve your new language dream. So it would help if you forgot about it altogether.
9. Language learning takes a freaking long time
People can be very impatient when they begin a new language. Everybody fancies the quick solution!
You might have come across various clickbait advertisements selling courses and apps that guarantee to teach you a language in a few months.
Don’t fall into the trap! If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
So, How long does it take to learn a new language from scratch?
Depending upon language complexity, your native or related tongue, language learning techniques, enthusiasm, and resources, it usually takes 2 to 5 years to achieve the advanced level in any foreign tongue.
Language education takes time, and miscalculating the time required is one of the main reasons for language learning failure.
Do you have the patience, perseverance, and persistence to study that long?
Well, only you can decide!
Foreign language learning may sound enjoyable and thrilling to the ears.
However, there is more to it than meet the eye. There is a lot you’re not being told.
With so much diversity in communication, the world keeps moving on. So stop wasting your time and resources if you don’t need to learn foreign languages.
Why do if you have very little or nothing to offer to improve your life?
I completely appreciate your inspiring endeavor if you genuinely want to learn a language despite the reasons mentioned above.
If you do not share my new views, you can always read my old articles on language learning advantages. And let the comments flow like Swahili.
This is so useful for students because if there parents force them to learn a foreign language they will say this points to leave them speechless 😂😆😅
I think every older person who decides to learn a new language understands that it would have been easier if they had done so as a child. I knew that when I started learning French in my late 40s. With a combination of Coffee Break French, YouTube, and Memrise, now I can read books and watch shows in French, and I am the one my co-workers go to when they have a phone call from a French speaker. My accent isn’t great, but I can understand and make myself understood. I’m still adding vocabulary and improving in my mid-50s, and I could say the same about my first language because learning a second language has also made me better at my first. I’m working with a native speaker to create audio courses on Memrise that teach intermediate and advanced grammar.
“You can’t compete with how a kid’s brain will grasp facts at a specific time on a standard scale.” I’m not competing with a child. I’m competing with myself. Concentrating on being better than you are now instead of distracting yourself with other people is something I did learn as a child, along with the most important lesson: “It’s difficult” is not a reason to give up.
Agree with everything, but I have one comment to make.
The reasons provided in this list should not really apply to learning English as a second language. This is because the utility and return on investment for learning English are massive. It is absolutely worth sacrificing time and money to teach yourself and/or your children English if you are from a non-English speaking background. Many parents in third-world countries undergo immense financial sacrifices so that their children can learn English.
I don’t care about your opinion. Also sacrifice this ratio.
Do you believe learning a foreign language should be required to graduate high school? What are the cons of pushing students to learn a foreign language, even though they have no interest in learning it?
Despite many benefits, language shouldn’t be pushed on anyone. One major drawback is lack of interest if something is forced. Without interest and motivation, one will not learn and achieve any meaningful level. So, it’s a sheer waste of time and money. Therefore, proper guidance and its benefits should be covered before teaching a language.
Very interesting that someone has the same view as me. I’ve studied multiple languages, the last one being Japanese. I was quite delusional and thought that learning Japanese would help me find a good job (there aren’t many well-paid jobs in Japan full stop let alone jobs using Japanese here in London). It is often said that learning a language opens up a whole new world. Okay, so if I learn German, how does that help me if I travel in Asia? On the other hand, I do think it is respectful to learn at least a few words when you travel to a new country and I think learning languages has helped me in my learning of programming languages so indirectly it has helped my career.
I think if you live in a monolingual environment (whether that means family, or city, or entire nation) and have no prospective need for a second language, I could possibly agree that you may as well just remain monolingual. But perhaps if you are in a mainland European city full of interaction with other cultures, or in an American metropolis with a very diverse population, you more readily will have the people and resources around you to not only support your own efforts to learn a second language, but also people for whom you may have interest in crossing a bridge over into their language, culture, and ways of thinking.
I have been fortunate to live in large and diverse cities throughout my life. I speak Spanish at an intermediate level, and I use it quite frequently where I live. When native Spanish speakers (especially those with limited English) see me, and obviously a non-Hispanic person, speaking their language decently well, they see me as one who is making an effort to step into their world and to honor who they are and where they come from. On the flip side, I then appreciate better when non-native speakers are trying their best with English, mistakes and all, mistakes that I have certainly made myself. And all of this is a product of having real-life exposure to other languages and ethnicities when there is a clear purpose to learn a specific language.
Language acquisition can never be theoretical or just an intellectual exercise. It has to “live” somewhere.
Thanks, Asiy for taking the time to write your perspective.
You’ve nailed it really. It depends on your goals. You will never learn a foreign language if you are not motivated. I have no intention of becoming an expert in a foreign language because that doesn’t serve as a major benefit for me. What I do like is to spend time and effort on languages that are of interest and practical benefit to me. My goal is to be able to communicate with people in places where I travel – I’m okay with not understanding everything and just getting by. Usually, I settle at around the B1-B2 level and I’m happy with that.
I speak English (native), Dutch, German, French, Portuguese, Mandarin, and Gulf Arabic. I have managed to successfully learn 2 (and once even 3) languages at the same time by choosing pairs that don’t have a lot in common (Portuguese and Arabic, French and Mandarin, etc.) I can barely read or write Chinese or Arabic because I don’t need that skill – I do not need to write letters in these languages. On the other hand, I studied in French to a sufficient level to be able to complete a semester at a Quebec university (the language of tuition was French).
Set goals and stick to them, or give up and let them go. Remember that it’s not quick and it’s not cheap either. I gave up on Latin, Greek and Serbian because I lost interest.
Thanks for your detailed personal experience, Lemur.
How much I can earn from a foreign language?
That’s impossible to answer.
“Don’t be deceived; you cannot learn a language without spending much on it unless you’re not keen on mastering that language.”
Funny, I’ve never spent a cent learning English or French. Though it certainly does help to have a teacher it is not an absolute requirement, with all the apps, technologies, youtube courses, youtube native content available, it has become more and more easy to be fluent in almost any language.
Agree. That’s why I wish I was a native English speaker so I wouldn’t need to waste my time learning the language.
I learned Spanish and Italian but couldn’t practice. Now, I forgot completely. I want to learn German and French. I know I’m doing wrong, and I’m wasting money and time. I’m an engineer, and I quit job sitting and learning languages. I am such a loser. God save me.
What happened, happened. You can forget about that. Now follow three things (i) Don’t quit your job for learning languages. Only leave when it is challenging to manage the time or looking to change your career or position. You can learn any language by giving only 1-2 hours every day. Most can do along with the regular job. (ii) Pick only one language. Spreading yourself thin is another way of not giving each language the attention it needs. Besides, you will get confused. (iii) Find a teacher and make a goal to appear for the international test. These things will make sure you focus enough. Good Luck!
Sir, I have read your article on ‘Why you shouldn’t learn a foreign language’ which I found very interesting. I am a 48-year-old employed in a data capturing unit. Data capture jobs have a shelf life and I think at my age I am just hanging on to it and after 4-5 years I will be running out of steam. I dread retiring since I need funds to sustain myself and my family and hence I was planning to learn a foreign language hoping it would extend my earning capacity after redundancy age. Please advise if I should pursue these lines and which language should I focus on. Thanks, Manish.
Well, it will easily take a few years, and with no experience, you still have to start from zero. The opportunities are also limited beyond the age of 55. if you really want to learn a new language, you can pick one between French, Spanish, or German. Besides, you can explore the possibilities with your existing skills and experience.
I want to learn German. Do you know any good teachers?
There are many. You can find one from any local classified site or online language teaching platforms.
Hi, sir, currently I’m working in the pharmaceutical industry. I want to learn a foreign language. Please suggest.
You can pick one of the popular languages like French, Spanish, German, Mandarin, or Japanese. Then take admission in any part-time course in your locality.