We have all discovered our own ways of coping with the stress and sometimes monotony of the pandemic and quarantine. Some of us drank more wine; some took Master classes on line and learned how to cook or write.
Others took up a foreign language and what a perfect time to do this!
Among the benefits of learning a new language is the ability to look at others (and at the world itself) with new eyes: the eyes of curiosity, excitement and empathy.
Learning a new language makes us automatically more aware of different ways of thinking, of unique ways to take in the world. Awareness of these differences is the foundation of understanding others, of respectfully tolerating the opinions of others and accepting our differences. Scientists and researchers tell us that learning another language may help delay dementia. People who speak two or more languages have later onset of Alzheimer’s, frontotemporal dementia and vascular dementia by an average of about 4.5 years compared to people who speak only one language.
Recently, Austrian researchers found increases in brain tissue volume in areas of the brain related to language in 11 adults in early stages of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and 12 adults without MS who completed a second language (English) learning program. The participants with MS also showed improvements in health related quality of life. This study provides some evidence of neuroplasticity; the brain’s ability to adapt or rewire following damage to preserve function. Studies in people without MS have shown similar language-related neuroplasticity, and have linked this finding to improvements in cognitive processes.
Second language learning actually induces gray matter volume increases ( what more could anybody want?) There is much to be said about the ease with which one can get started on learning a new language: online programs, phone apps, phrase books, grammar books, conversation books…. It is a sound investment of one’s time and energy; in addition to the possible increase on a given level of cognition, there is protective effect on future cognition. Is there anything more rewarding than listening to someone speak in the language you have been studying and discovering you actually understand a few words? Or making sense of an article on a magazine or newspaper because you now know a little more? What about making progress in mastering the grammar of a new language? It will put a smile on your face and give you a sense of accomplishment that will fuel your motivation and energize your life!