In today's multicultural world it's no wonder that many people start the new year with a resolution to learn a new language. Last year, it was estimated that as many as 1 in 5 of the UK public had it as their New Years Resolution, and there are plenty of good reasons why.

The benefits of learning a new language - even to a basic, beginners level - are endless. It can add a new element to travel, open new opportunities in your career, and allow you to appreciate foreign art and even food in a new way. There are also proven ways in which it directly benefits your brain, making it easier for you to concentrate on certain tasks, more adept at multitasking, and even helping stave off things like dementia.

It's not necessarily as intimidating a challenge as you might think either. A common misconception about learning a foreign language is that it's all or nothing, a case of becoming completely fluent or not bothering at all. But there are lots of benefits to being able to speak a language, even if you'll never become word for word perfect at it. It can be worthwhile setting targets and sticking to them. For example, to be able to understand the menu the next time you're in a foreign restaurant, to be able to look at a newspaper abroad and have an idea of what the headlines are, or to be able to watch a french film and follow along without the subtitles.

Of course no matter what targets you set, learning a new language to any level is still going to be a challenge. But the reason so many people try and do it is because it's one of the best challenges you can set yourself, and definitely one of the best to succeed with. Of all the 'bucket list' challenges there are, speaking a foreign language is a pretty good one. If you keep it up, it can stay with you for the rest of your life, and realistically, you're never going to regret it. It's definitely worth a go.

At least it's not English...

Three of the most popular second languages to learn here are Spanish, French and Italian. However, the hardest second language to learn is probably English. Few languages have as many complicated spelling, grammar and pronunciation rules as English, and no language breaks its own rules as often. There are plenty of ways that the English language can trip up people learning it as a second language: the same sounding word is spelt differently, words spelt similarly are pronounced differently; and there's always a few silent letters, or grammatical rules (I before E except after C) floating around to add confusion. Other European languages, by comparison, are a lot more consistent.

If you like the idea of learning a second language, introductory courses are available at South West College. For more information about them and other short term courses, check out the January Short Course Guide.