Learning languages has been, I think, one of the best things I could have ever done for myself. Learning and practicing languages other than my native tongue has made me feel wiser, made my brain sharper, and opened me up to other countries and opportunities.
The majority of my foreign language education has revolved around Spanish. I started in high school, minored in it in college, studied abroad in Spain in order to immerse myself, and continue to practice it on my own today. Throughout the years, I’ve also dabbled with German, Icelandic, Gaelic and French. All of these have been fun, if interesting and challenging at times, to learn and helped out in some way.
Because learning languages has been a part of my life for the past 14 years and I’ve found so much benefit from it, I wanted to share some of the top reasons why I love learning languages and why I think everyone should also start learning a second language.
First and probably the most important is that learning a language can be super fun. If you have a good teacher or are using the right apps, there are tons of ways to make learning a language fun and engaging. Playing games, practicing out and about in real life, matching words with their meaning… Learning a language does not need to feel like you are back in school and be a boring or arduous process. Find what works for you and keeps you wanting more.
Gives the brain a good ‘ole workout
One of the major benefits of learning a language is that it helps work out your brain. Not only will this make you sharper and wiser today, but doing new activities that challenge the brain is one of the number one ways to fend off dementia and Alzheimer’s in the future. Research shows that when we’re learning a new language we’re working a part of the brain called the executive control system. The executive control system is one of the most important parts of the brain, controlling all of our executive functioning. Executive functioning includes things like concentration and focus, organization, planning, managing time, and the ability to recall details. The beautiful thing about learning a language is that it works this part of the brain that’s so crucial, and we can see the benefits at any age. So, you don’t have to be someone who was taught a second language from an early age; you can start at any point and see improvements in your cognitive functioning.
Works that creativity muscle
Something I hadn’t considered when I started learning other languages is that it actually can make you more creative. I think one of the main reasons it does this is because when you’re learning and trying to use your new language out in the world, there are going to be times when you struggle to say what you’re trying to get across. This forces you to use others means, like finding new ways of describing your thoughts with words you do know and using objects to assist you in being understood. While this can be super annoying (don’t we all hate not feeling like we’re making sense or can’t think of how to say what we want to?), it opens your mind up to thinking in new ways and forces you to get out of your usual language bubble we all comfortably sit in with out native language.
Gain a new appreciation and understanding of your own language
Learning another language, its structure and vocabulary will give you a new understanding of your own language. When I was teaching English to native Spanish speakers, they asked me tons of questions about the structure of English that I had never considered before. Their questions forced me to ask why English is the way it is. Why are there words that can have two different meanings depending on how you use them? Why do conjugations of some words follow the rules why others don’t? Why do we say things like, “It’s raining cats and dogs”? Asking why about something that is normal to you is always a good way of opening up your mind to new ways of thinking and better understanding of how it all works. So, you’ll be learning a new language and better understanding your own…a win-win!
Languages are super useful and open up other parts of the world
This one might be obvious but definitely worth mentioning. Learning a new language is super useful, especially in our global world. In the US, if you’re a native English speaker the most useful one is likely going to be Spanish, and I’ve had multiple situations where my knowledge of the language came in handy. Learning more than one language also makes international travel way easier. If you’re an English speaker, there are plenty of places you can go and find other English speakers, or you can stick to only English-speaking tours. But, if you want to go to a country where English isn’t as prevalent or want to get off the beaten path, knowing at least the basics can make that happen. Knowing Spanish made living in Spain much easier to get around, and me just trying to speak the language softened people up to being more accepting of a foreigner. Learning some basic words in French made me and the hubby’s trip around France a little bit easier. We could understand signs and know items on menus, so we didn’t have to spend tons of time trying to find an English speaker to ask for directions or needing to translate menus. Promising to work on learning Icelandic landed me a job when we lived in Reykjavik. The possibilities are endless, and you’ll see the benefits immediately if you choose to learn a language then go try to use it.
Learning is really easy with today’s technology
So, if you’ve been convinced and are now interested in learning a new language, the good news is that there are tons of resources out there to make that happen, even free ways. I personally love using Duolingo. They make the process fun and easy, and they have an app so you can practice on the go. There are also apps out there that have flashcards if that’s your preferred learning style. There are also paid programs, like Rosetta Stone or getting an online tutor for one-on-one learning.
Whatever your preference, choose a language, a method and go forth to conquer a new language!
- Adios, amigos!
This post is not sponsored. All opinions and recommendations are my own.