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Learning and teaching foreign languages are the key components of the language policy of a country which set a course towards the development of bi/multilingual generation. However, there are still some controversial disputes on the true need for learning languages. In this regard, the episode of the radio podcast “Is Learning a Foreign Language Really Worth It?” mainly discusses the psychological and economical ROI (Return on Investment), which in a plain language means the word “benefit”, of the foreign language learning by providing quite interesting arguments with no less interesting reasons and evidences to support them.
Interestingly, from a psychological perspective, learning foreign languages changes the way the human brain works. According to psychology professor, Boaz Keysar, the more languages you know, the more likely you will act differently. In this sense, he states that a foreign language directly impacts your decision-making process. For instance, the findings of his research show that when people think in a foreign language, they become more willing to take risks, more reflective and less emotional on their choices. Personally, I am quite skeptical on this issue, since I do not believe that there is a “magic” link between foreign languages and the human brain. It sounds to me as inane as the “Critical Period” theory, according to which a child cannot get a full command of a language unless he/she starts to learn it until a particular period, because after that his/her brain allegedly loses its flexibility.
As for the economical prospect, the ROI varies from country to country primarily depending on their L1. For example, the research conducted by MIT economist, Albert Saiz, found out that the learning foreign languages in the US is not so financially attractive as it is in non-English speaking countries: approximately 2% and 10% premium per year, respectively. Hence, Bryan Caplan, economist at George Mason University, claims that learning a foreign language is not reasonable and worthy unless people can benefit from it. Besides these economists, the responses of children on the need for learning foreign languages mainly reflect the same idea: financial benefits. Thus, the link between economics and learning foreign languages seems more realistic and worthy than the psychological one. Are you of the same view?