Why every gentleman should speak more than one language

Untie your tongue, and learn a new language. The benefits are many...

Native English speakers have it pretty easy a lot of the time, there’s no denying that. English is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, which can lend some credibility to well-rehearsed protests such as, ‘there’s no point in learning another language, nearly everyone speaks English anyway’.

Struggling to communicate with someone else through our meagre knowledge of their language often ends in demoralisation, as they helpfully slip into stream of English so fluent that we begin to question our own competence even at our own native tongue. Surely when it comes to this, the easiest thing to do – even the correct form – is to accept defeat and allow said person to demonstrate their linguistic prowess.

Your brain power will increase tenfold

The scientific reasons alone might be enough to convince some. Studies have shown that learning new languages can actually increase brain power, by altering grey matter (the part of the brain which processes information) in the same way that doing exercise builds muscle. Smarter choices could be an unseen benefit of your new, multilingual self. 

Thinking things over in another language can help to clarify whether one’s initial conclusions are still justified; think smarter financial decisions that could leave you quids up in the long term.

Some of the world’s best gentleman do it

For those that are still not convinced, take a look at the well-known names who speak at least one other language, and in many places a whole score of them. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has found time to learn Chinese, and many top businessmen don’t just look for multilingualism in their employees, but pioneer it themselves. The CEO of Nestlé speaks six languages, whilst multilingual actors include Tom Hiddleston (nine languages) and Lord of the Rings star Viggo Mortensen (who speaks five languages fluently and has more understanding than the most of us of a fair few others).

It might be their prowess on the tennis court that Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer usually showcase, but perhaps lesser known is the fact that they each can speak a number of languages nearly as large as their collection of grand slam titles. Djokovic speaks not only his native Serbian, but English, German, Italian and French, and Federer is the master of both Swiss and regular German as well as English and French.

Languages and sport seem a common combination; Gary Lineker speaks Spanish and Japanese, and José Mourinho, cover star of our last issue, is fluent in French, Spanish, Catalan and Italian as well as his native Portuguese. Lack of time simply won’t hold as an excuse, gentlemen. If they can find the hours, so can you.

You’re guaranteed to gain more respect

But, lets be honest, mastering just one, let alone several languages, takes more motivation than just knowing who has already succeeded in this. Think, instead, about how you could see the benefit on a more personal scale. There are no two ways about it, fluency in another tongue is a pretty surefire way of gaining respect wherever you go, whether it be that of locals prepared for the typical British defence mechanism (speaking English with a peculiar foreign accent, as if that will make them somehow more intelligible), or travel companions (who will likely conform to such expectations).

Think navigating your way through restaurant menus with ease; avoiding extortionate tourist scams; getting off the beaten track and past the limitations that restrict those with the attitude that they know enough French, Italian or whatever the language to simply ‘get by’. For a gentleman, getting by with the occasional cheery ‘bonjour’ simply isn’t good enough.

You’ll finally get the girl

The image of refinement, education and masterful good taste that so many seek can be so easily achieved through just a few, well pronounced words in French, and theres no denying that this can have a strong effect over others (or to be more specific, women). That charming, beautiful, intelligent girl of your dreams? Chances are she’s multilingual (well at least if she bears any similarity to the likes of Penelope Cruz or Natalie Portman, who both speak an array of languages) or perhaps even doesn’t even speak English. 

Limiting yourself to just one language, after all, means confining your sphere of influence to just a fraction of the world’s population. In terms of statistics, you’re hardly giving yourself the best chance. Fluency in one language is a fast track ticket to expertise in others; get the hang of one and you could find others rolling off your tongue within months.

For a start, find out how to say thank you in different languages here.

Further Reading