Saturday Insight: Does learning a new language make you more tolerant?


As most of you probably know already, my current residence is and has been for a while now, San Miguel De Allende in Mexico. It’s a charming town; Filled with colors, music and neoclassical buildings, where chocolate-bars are wrapped in brown paper and milk comes in cute glass-bottles. Yes, it does feel like I’ve gone back in time to the 1950s, and I’m enjoying each day with an absolute feeling of freedom and autonomy. My only problem is … I have to learn the Spanish language.

This realization came quickly … and painfully: There I was, standing in front of the counter in my favorite pastry-shop, my body, desperately in need of coffee, my mind, confused and frustrated by the fact that none of the cashiers spoke the most worldly language out there; English. So … I, I grabbed my phone and started typing in some words on google-translate as a desperate attempt of finding out what “Can I please have” was in Spanish. And that’s when it all came to me: What an idiot I had been. I pictured myself coming home without having learned one phrase or sentence in Spanish – I would probably be the laughing-stock in my family. Yeah, I can just hear them shouting: “What? You’ve been to Mexico but you haven’t even bothered to learn the language??”  Yeah. Go ahead and blame me. I deserve it. So, what did I do next? Well, I sat down and really began dedicating myself to verbs and grammar. And that was when another thought came through my head: What does learning a new language really do to your personality? 

Of course, we all know the obvious: Learning a new Language increases your brain-capacity, including the ability to focus and to connect patterns, as well as it lessens the likelihood of developing dementia. But how does it change your character? 

After a little bit of research, I came across an article on where the bilingual writer, Katie Collom connects language learning with cultural competence. Ultimately, she suggests that when learning a new language, you simultaneously acquire knowledge about a new culture, country, or even a new way of life. If we connect more dots, we can find that this might be the reason why ambassadors are often diplomats and vice versa. Katie Collom also touches on the subject related to human beings and their natural inclination towards intolerance. She says: “It’s part of human nature to be wary of change or of those who are very different from ourselves. We crave uniformity and comfort, and for some, it can be a true struggle to step outside that familiar zone.”

It is, therefore, crucial for everyone to try to learn a third language, or at least, if you can, a second one. Seeing that in language classes, you won’t just be touching on themes related to grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structure, but also on topics related to everyday life, the country’s history and their unique cultural social cues. This is crucial for learning because it makes it much easier for our cognitive brain to pick up on new words if they’re put in an association with something else. 

So, what are the key-behavioral changes that happen to you when acquiring a new language to your everyday life? Well … 

  1. It opens your eyes to another way of thinking 


Learning a new language has scientifically been proven to increase our practical intelligence which helps us pick up on social cues. By learning about their culture, we slowly begin to develop their ways of understanding things. 


2. You develop ‘tolerance of ambiguity’


This means your brain becomes more programmed to find unfamiliar situations exciting rather than scary. It also allows you to feel more comfortable with unfamiliar words. That strange language you once thought was too harsh and brutal for your taste, suddenly seems rather nice and pleasant to listen to! 


3. The higher tolerance that comes from language-learning allows you to be less anxious in social situations 

i-doodle-comics-to-help-others-with-anxiety-fb4__700-png.jpgStruggling with social anxiety? Try learning a new language – go abroad, open up your horizons! 


4. Apparently – there’s a link between entrepreneurs and bilinguals 

entrepreneurs-illustration_23-2147514202.jpgLearning a new languages makes you more tolerant, which in turn, makes you more comfortable with stepping out of your comfort zone, talking to someone new and making business deals you never even thought of before. Is it strange to you now, that entrepreneurs are usually the ones with enhanced language-skills? 


End conclusion: Learning another language DOES make you more tolerant, plus, the other benefits of this activity are endless! So, next time you’re going somewhere – perhaps it’s just a vacation in the south – try jumping on that online-course and learn that language. It will do good for your brain and your social interactions. And yes, I will definitely return to my Spanish grammar after this. 



Aftur S. Nerdrum 





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