Research has already shown that learning a foreign language can help people make better decisions (source), that it helps brain development in children (source), and that it can help prevent dementia (source). But are the economic advantages worth the investment of time?
According to numbers calculated by MIT Economist Albert Saiz, the benefit will vary depending on the language learned and the number of native speakers of that language already living within the learner’s country of residence. For example, a student who learns Spanish in the United States would see just a 1.5 percent salary increase as a result because of the large number of Spanish native speakers living there and competing for jobs requiring the same language skill set. However, learning French would result in a hypothetical 2.3 percent increase, and students of German might gain a 3.8 percent increase.
“This translates into big differences in the language account: your Spanish is worth $51,000, but French, $77,000, and German, $128,000.” (source)
So why is German such a powerhouse when it comes to salaries and job opportunities? As the same article explains: “…an important factor is economic openness. Germany is a trade powerhouse, so its language will be more economically valuable for an outsider than the language of a relatively more closed economy.”