Around a year ago, I wrote a blogpost on the role of languages in a Brexit world, and while this is still a pertinent topic, I’d now like to explore the role that languages can play in your life as a learner. So, if you’re at all hesitant to start learning another language, read on to find out just how many benefits bilingualism could bring to you.
First and foremost, learning a new language does wonders for your brain. The process of learning to navigate a new language system not only helps to improve your problem-solving skills but, combined with learning new vocabulary, it also helps with memory and recall skills. Multiple studies have shown the bilinguals find it easier to remember things such as names and shopping lists, and they also tend to score better on standardised tests – perhaps down to the improvement language-learning causes in problem-solving skills.
Moreover, numerous studies have also shown that learning a language, and being bilingual, can stave off Alzheimer’s. Multilingual participants of these studies were shown to have a higher median age of showing the first signs of the disease, going someway to prove that languages can be highly beneficial for mental agility and health.
Whilst the above are just a few of the mental benefits that language learning can bring you, there are many others besides. Learning a new language can, for example, help to improve your mother tongue. When you pick up a new language, you are inevitably going to focus on the very intricacies that make up a language: grammar, verbs, and sentence structure, to name just a few. By doing so in a foreign language, you will automatically begin to consider these areas more carefully in your mother tongue, leading to improved written and oral communication.
Multilinguals also prove to be better decision-makers, by virtue of studying a language’s nuances, and having to compare them to those of their mother tongue, before making the correct linguistic choice for any given situation. Moreover, learning a language, or being bilingual, can improve your skills of perception, as you learn to focus on solely relevant information, or social cues, to make linguistic choice when speaking in a language other than your mother tongue.
Finally, beyond the academic benefits, learning a language opens up a world of culture and travel for you to explore. When you learn a new language, you not only learn the vocabulary and syntax of which it is formed, but you also learn about the history and people behind it too. Armed with this cultural knowledge, and the ability to speak the language, you will be able to travel and have a deeper connection with, and understanding of, the places you visit. It is one of the best, and most exhilarating, parts of learning a new language.
As you have hopefully gleaned from the above, language learning can bring myriad benefits, and exciting possibilities, to a learner’s life. While there is, of course, a fair amount of hard work and effort needed to reach bilingualism, the mental advantages and opportunities that this time invested can bring you definitely outweigh the potential pain of learning verb endings and new vocabulary. Enjoy the journey, and the many doors that languages will open for you!