Richard and I are currently taking Italian lessons in preparation for our upcoming hiking trip in Italy. Blame it on too many traumatic high school French classes…but Richard did need to be gently coaxed (read here: DRAGGED kicking and screaming) to join me in this course. Despite this initial setback, we are enjoying our studies, having fun, and are already experiencing multiple benefits of our language learning.
You may be thinking — what in the heck are two seniors doing learning a brand new language?! Researchers in this area not only confirm that older adults CAN learn a new language, but that in many cases they SHOULD. Here’s why:
Learning a new language can:
1.Grow Your Brain. Swedish scientists discovered that learning a new language can increase the size of your brain in ways that other non-linguistic rigorous studies do not. (Source)
2. Help Your Brain Become More Flexible and Efficient. Along with your brain increasing in size, researchers at Penn State University found that new language learning structurally changes the brain and makes it more efficient. (Source)
3. Slow Down Decline in Mental Ability. Studies at The University of Edinburg, as well as at The American Academy of Neurology, found that (on average) bilingual/multilingual patients developed dementia four-and-a-half years later than their monolingual counterparts. (Source)
4. Show Others that you are Open-Minded. Demonstrating that you have taken the time to learn the local language indicates that you have an active interest in new people and cultures. This gesture alone speaks volumes.
5. Provide a Broader, More Global Perspective. By learning a new language, you gain a better understanding of the people who speak it, their country and their culture. Language lessons teach much more than just language.
6. Simplify Travel – Being able to read local signs, order food, ask directions, and make reservations can make travel more enjoyable and help you to feel less like an “outsider.” This skill can also help you to travel much more independently.
7. Help You Meet New People (and Open the Door to Further Interaction with Them). A world of opportunity awaits you. Communication and relationships provide the key!
With all of the language learning options out there (apps, websites, online tutoring, conversation partners, local classes…) there’s no excuse not to try. You set the terms of what you wish to learn, what works for you, and the pace that suits you best. There are multitudes of FREE Beginner YouTube tutorials available in most languages. In addition, online language programs geared toward children are a perfect way to learn numbers, colours, months as well as the days of the week. (Just sayin’!)
Have you studied a new language recently? If so, what was your experience?
Ti auguro buone vacanze con la famiglia e gli amici.