Two sides of the coin: Learning a foreign language

The podcast on Freakonomics Radio, called “Is Learning a Foreign Language Really Worth It?”, gives insight views on the psychological and economical benefits and drawbacks of learning a foreign language. The creator was trying to inform readers about pros and cons of learning L2 by interviewing children and researchers, such as Boaz Keysar, Albert Saiz and Bryan Caplan, in the field.

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Firstly, in terms of psychology, the results of Boaz Keyser’s experiment showed that learning a foreign language has a positive influence on a decision-making process, and I completely agree with it. Based on my personal experience, I can say that the degree of taking risks and decisions varies depended on a language you think and speak. For instance, I usually act a bit braver when I speak Russian, or I feel very confident to express my feelings in English. Moreover, before listening to this podcast I had been saying “I am not a fluent speaker of any language because I choose what language to speak depending on situation/topic”. However, now, after becoming familiar with this psychological aspect of learning foreign language, I have realized that it happens because decision-making processes are not the same in different languages.

Talking about economical view, Albert Saiz claims that you are not going to earn much money from learning additional language in America since your income will increase only for 2-4 %. However, Saiz adds that in some countries, like Israel, Russia or Turkey, mastering English as a second language can raise your salary up to 10-20 %. In this sense, I would say that in our country, Kazakhstan, knowing English is also priority in getting well-paid job. Furthermore, Bryan Caplan supposes that forcing American children to learn L2, other than English, is wasting of time whereas for other countries learning English as a foreign language is a good opportunity to open many doors. Being a citizen of Kazakhstan, I support this point of view. Nowadays English is considered as one of the world languages, and it gives me a chance to deepen my knowledge in science, to communicate with English-speaking people, to travel all over the world, etc.

Overall, I would like to say that the podcast reached its purpose to inform readers about psychological and economical benefits and drawbacks. I suggest everyone to listen to the podcast because it was really interesting to get to know about the things which we usually do not pay attention to.

4 thoughts on “Two sides of the coin: Learning a foreign language

  1. Thanks Gulnar. This is a great example of summary and analysis being integrated in writing. I hope you take this approach when writing your literature reviews! Very clear writing overall. 5/5


  2. Dear @gulnarbakytzhanova,

    Thank you for the post. As a person, who have chosen the same podcast to analyze, it was interesting for me to see how different people can be in expressing something. It could be connceted to the point of decision-making as well. I also choose the language to speak depending on situation and knowledge of a particular topic in a certain sphere. I can say that if somebody asks me to explain a topic of multilingualism, I could not do this for sure in Kazakh. That is because, first, I have a lower proficiency in Kazakh comparing to English; second, I study this topic in English, and it would be difficult to use some terminology in Kazakh. You also have mentioned that in Kazakhstan the English language is on the way to become a need. What about the Kazakh language? I think that the status of Kazakh is raising as well.


  3. Thank you Gulnar! I agree that being linguistically competent in English can make you more competetive in Kazakhstani labor market. However, if we talk about the field of education, an average bachelor or master degree holder speaking English well in Kazakhstan is generally limited to be a teacher somehow dealing with language. And therefore I think teachers competent in English are not that much privieleged than those who are not. But there is a good chance of getting really high paid job beyond the field of education. So, in general we can assume that Kazakhstan is becoming one of that countries where mastering English is motivated by an advantageous position in labor market.


  4. Dear Gulnar, thank you for the post. I have always wondered why people learn languages. It’s not only time-consuming and sometimes costly, but the effort you put into learning the language usually does not have a long-lasting effect as well. The moment you stop practicing, you gradually lose the command of the language. I see more sense in learning the language that you have more chance to practice either at work or in some other daily communication. And I believe that not only English can increase your employability, but in certain circumstances any other language in demand. For example, in Kazakhstan, knowing both Kazakh and Russian fluently in many cases might be valued more in the job market than knowing only Kazakh and English or only Russian and English.


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