“One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.”
– Frank Smith
Languages are the keys to doors we didn’t know we wanted opening; they are windows into the lives of others and the most important tool we have to connect with nations across the world. The benefits of language learning have long been studied by academics and there is no better time to discover them than during lockdown.
Sat in a pavement café on a narrow street that wound its way down from Plaza Mayor, I took in the sights and smells of Madrid’s vibrant culture and listened to the hum of the Spanish spirit. That was the catalyst for my love of language, and the moment that I chose to study Spanish at university. Language learning is enriching and beneficial in more ways than meet the eye and now is the time to reap the rewards.
Connect with another culture
“Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.”
– Rita Mae Brown
Perhaps the most rewarding benefit of learning a language is the connection that it provides you with another culture; the language of a nation is arguably the most important part of its culture and the most valuable tool to understand others. To appreciate the subtleties of meaning hidden in words of another language is undeniably a rewarding way to connect with another culture.
Language breaks down invisible barriers and opens your eyes and mind to different ways of life. To be able to converse with someone in their native tongue not only shows respect but is a vehicle for more meaningful communication and diplomacy.
Learning the language of a country gives you access to parts of its culture that you otherwise may not discover; literature, music, art and film without translation or subtitles is the most enriching way to immerse yourself in another culture. With international travel an impossibility during the Covid-19 pandemic, now is the perfect time to explore another land through language.
“Knowledge of languages is the doorway to wisdom.”
– Roger Bacon
Many of us have been looking for ways to remain cognitively stimulated during lockdown, and learning a language is a perfect way to do this. Undoubtedly, one of the main benefits of learning a second language is the positive effect it has on your cognitive development. Research carried out by Neuroscientists has found that learning a language can improve several different academic and cognitive skills.
Learning a language requires you to memorise rules and vocabulary and therefore improves your memory generally in other aspects of your life. The ability linguists possess to understand complex grammar structures and switch between different systems of literacy improves their multi-tasking and problem-solving skills.
The mechanical aspect of language also allows the learner to develop a more critical eye for their native tongue; those that have learnt another language are often skilled writers and communicators in their own language.
What’s more, a study carried out on the impact of bilingualism on Alzheimer disease, found that learning another language and, in doing so, maintaining mental engagement, can aid cognitive reserve, and therefore lifelong bilingualism can assist in delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Valuable skills for business
“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”
– Ludwig Wittgenstein
We live in a globalised world; international air travel, global corporations and virtual connectivity are proof of this. With national circumstances so inextricably linked to international occurrences, language learning is becoming even more valuable and is particularly useful in the business world.
Whether you work in finance, IT, journalism or marketing, learning a language is an advantageous skill to have; not only does it enhance your CV, but it also opens new doors and expands your professional network. According to Forbes, learning another language improves decision-making and observational skills, making bilingual people a great asset to companies.
Language learning: now is the time to challenge yourself
“Language exerts hidden power, like a moon on the tides.”
– Rita Mae Brown
At a time when we feel isolated, learning a language can help us to find connections with people in even the most far-off places. Despite the challenging nature of language learning, it can only be described as rewarding. Aside from the cognitive, cultural and business benefits of language learning, there are benefits that can only be described as those you can feel; a sense of togetherness; a feeling of gratification; and a desire to know more. With lockdown still very much our reality, it could be the time for you to challenge yourself and learn a language.
Here are a few language learning resources:
Featured image: © Sebastiano Piazzi