If you’re like many of us, you spent your high school years moaning and groaning about the required language courses that you needed in order to graduate, whining as you fumbled your way through grammar lessons, pop quizzes and — the worst! — oral exams.
Learning a second language was fun at times; remember those fiestas in Spanish and the cheese-tasting parties in French class? However, when the semester was peppered with quizzes, tests, essays and homework, the good times faded away quickly. Yet, when you strip away all of the class work and teenage angst, learning a new language can actually be incredibly fun. It’s sort of like when you graduate from school and realize that reading books can be enjoyable – just in the framework of the classroom, it had simply become another chore. Out in the real world, reading books are a respite from everyday life; they’re a way to escape, imagine, dream and explore.
Learning a new language feels the exact same way. Here are few reasons why you should boost your resolve to crack open the books again and learn:
It’s Good For You
Your brain is a muscle like any other – to keep it from atrophying, it continually requires exercise. Learning something new is a great way to force the brain to stretch and strengthen and grow, thereby keeping your mind sharp and your head clear.
Specifically, learning a foreign language as an adult has a great impact on the health of your brain. William Alexander, an op-ed contributor for The New York Times, wrote a great piece on this very topic, citing results from a 2013 study conducted by researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Northwestern University in Illinois. According to Alexander and the researchers, “… the cognitive tasks involved [with studying a foreign language as an adult] – including working memory, inductive reasoning, sound discrimination and task switching – map closely to the areas of the brain that are associated with declines due to aging.”
Your brain will be stimulated by overcoming the obstacles associated with learning a new language (different grammatical structures, unlikely pronunciations, and so on) strengthening it and protecting its faculties for years to come.
It Expands You
We’re not talking about your social media network here, although that applies, too! We’re referring to the group of people with whom you socialize and interact, and while most of us have friends and family members that we love spending time with, it’s always
fun to broaden our relationship horizons by meeting new people.
By engaging in your community in a new, creative way, it’s likely that you’ll meet new, creative people with whom you can get to know …
Language courses at local schools are typically filled with unique people from all walks of life, united by a common goal of learning something. By engaging in your community in a new, creative way, it’s likely that you’ll meet new, creative people with whom you can get to know and, of course, practice your chosen language together.
It Prepares You
We’re sure that you don’t need too much motivation to consider planning a trip abroad, but equipping yourself with the skill of learning a new language is just one more factor to up the ante. Part of the fun of exploring an international city is immersing yourself in a completely new culture, soaking up bits and pieces of the sights, flavors and sounds as you encounter them.
Learning the language of a place that you want to visit will help you dive deeper into the climate and culture of that area, allowing you to better converse with locals (even if minimally!), read the morning newspaper, and find restaurants and shops off the beaten path, ones that the locals actually visit themselves. Knowing just a few key phrases and words will allow you to be conversational, enriching your travel experience in a very meaningful way.
Would you be interested in trying to learn a new language? If so, which one would you choose?
Images via Nicole Ziza Bauer