Bilinguals are more attractive, say 71% of Americans

A tourist poses in front of the "House of Flags" installation in London's Parliament Square in 2012.

Story highlights

  • 71% of Americans and 61% of Britons believe being multilingual makes a person more attractive
  • Around a quarter of Americans and Britons think being monolingual has held them back professionally
  • One in eight admits to exaggerating their language skills on a resume

(CNN)Want greater success in your career and your love life, as well as a healthy brain long into old age?

The answer could be to learn another language.
    Or at least that's the case according to a majority of Americans and Britons polled in a new survey by language app Babbel.
    Apparently, 71% of Americans and 61% of Britons believe speaking more than one language makes a person seem more attractive.
    Oui, c'est vrai!
    Of 3,000 English-speakers polled in the US and the UK, nine out of 10 admitted they'd learn a new language in pursuit of love.
    About half said they'd dreamed about a romance with someone from another country.
    And moving from the bedroom to boardroom, about one in four Americans and Britons think that being monolingual has held them back professionally.
    So it's probably no surprise that one in eight confessed to having exaggerated their language skills on a resume.

    Expanding skillsets

    "Languages not only enable you to expand yourself in terms of perspective and skillset, but they also open doors and help you better understand other cultures and peoples," Miriam Plieninger, director of didactics at Babbel, tells CNN.
    "Knowing another language helps to break barriers and to connect on a special level of mutual understanding; be it while on the street, traveling, or in business."
    Globally, more than half the world can speak at least two languages -- but Western English-speakers are lagging behind.
    A 2001 Gallup poll found about a quarter of Americans could hold a conversation in a second language -- mostly Spanish -- while a 2014 study by Eurobarometer revealed about 60% of people in the UK and Ireland are monolingual.
    Translation apps can only get you so far.

    Influential factors

    "Different factors influence how easy (or difficult) it is to learn a new language," says Plieninger.
    "If the language you are learning is part of the same family as your mother tongue, it is generally much easier to access."
    Theoretically, English-speakers should therefore be more comfortable with Germanic languages like German or Dutch, as both are historically very close to English.
    However, familiarity picked up in everyday life or in the classroom makes a big difference, which is why Americans feel at ease with Spanish and Brits with French -- both romantic languages.
    US English-speakers think Spanish is easiest to pick up, while Britons prefer French.
    And although the majority of Americans and Britons polled thought Russian was the trickiest to pick up, it's actually "part of the same Indo-European language family as English," Plieninger adds.
    "What makes it difficult, however, is that it uses the Cyrillic alphabet, which is a big hurdle for beginners, and it also has a different grammar structure to English."

    Romantic language is most romantic

    And which languages have the most sex appeal -- in UK and US eyes, at least?
    Well, the Babbel guys asked that in a previous survey.
    French was considered the "sexiest" language by respondents on both sides of the Atlantic (US 40%, UK 32%) and the hottest foreign accent in which to hear English (US 38%, UK 40%).
    So being multilingual can make you more appealing, more successful and more compassionate. And it's also good for your health.
    In 2011, Canadian neuroscientist Ellen Bialystok found that speaking more than one language regularly from an early age enhances cognitive abilities and can also delay symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
    It's "a great way to train your brain," says Plieninger.

    How it breaks down

    Romance
    • 71% of Americans and 64% of Britons believe speaking more than one language makes a person seem more attractive.
    • Nine out of ten Americans, and the same number of Britons, confess they would learn a language in the pursuit of love.
    Professional, US
    • One in eight Americans (12%) admit to having exaggerated their language skills on a resume to impress potential employers.
    • Over a quarter (26%) feel that a lack of language skills has held them back professionally.
    • French is the top second-language that Americans perceive as making someone seem intelligent (37%), followed by German (19%).
    • Nearly half of Americans (40%) view Russian as the most difficult language to learn.
    • Almost two-thirds (64%) feel that Spanish is the easiest to pick up.
    Professional, UK
    • One in eight Britons (13%) admit to having exaggerated their language skills on a resume to impress potential employers.
    • Nearly a quarter of Britons (23%) feel that a lack of language skills has held them back professionally.
    • Russian is the second-language that most Britons perceive as making someone seem intelligent (32%), followed by French (21%), and German (17%).
    • Nearly half of Brits (45%) view Russian as the most difficult language to learn.
    • Just over a third (36%) feel that French is the easiest to pick up, followed by Spanish (28%).
    Gender differences
    • Men (USA 53%, UK 55%) are considerably more likely to dream about a romance with a foreigner than women (USA 49%, UK 43%).
    • Men (USA 73%, UK 68%) are also much more inclined than women (USA 65%, UK 57%) to believe that speaking a second language makes them more attractive.
    Age differences
    • In both the US and the UK, people under 45 are much more likely to have dreamed about a romance with a foreigner (USA 71%, UK 70%) than those over 45 (USA 46%, UK 40%).
    • They are also much more likely to have exaggerated their linguistic skills on their resume (Under 45: USA 20%, UK 21% ; Over 45: USA 8%, UK 9%).