If you’re not already learning a foreign language, what are you waiting for? I had to ask myself that question today. If you’re like me, you can think up plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t learn a new language: Too busy. Too old. Too shy. Too many excuses. If you can put aside the reasons why you can’t, I think I can show you why you can!
Like Chocolate for Your Brain
Learning new words and eating chocolate have something in common: both activate your brain’s pleasure center. Maybe your high school German teacher was on to something after all. You saw those verb conjugations and grammar drills as a chore, but it turns out learning a new language produces pleasure. While I can’t compare the hour I spent today learning Spanish vocabulary words to eating my favorite chocolate bar, I did feel good when I could use the words in a sentence. So, treat yourself to learning a new language. I promise I won’t tell anyone if you reward yourself with a piece of chocolate for every new word learned!
The World is Your Oyster
I’m not pushing Shakespeare – although he was a master of language. However, the world really is yours for the taking when you can communicate in a language other than your native tongue. Imagine the travel experiences you’ll have! As fun as foreign travel is, it’s so much more authentic when you’ve learned at least a little of the language, which allows you to socialize and participate in the life of the locals.
It’s Like Taking a Social Studies Class – but More Fun
I loved 8th grade Social Studies! We participated in a unit called “Country Studies,” where we researched a country, presented it to the class, and brought a dish from our assigned nation. I chose Scotland, and my dish was Scottish Shortbread.
Learning a new language expands on what you learned way back in grade school. You’ll gain a better understanding of the world and see that we really are all connected. Have a conversation with someone in their native language and you break down barriers, and you can also understand their culture and their traditions. A bonus is you can talk to visitors to your own country. What better way to welcome a foreign visitor to our beautiful country than to give directions or suggestions for fun things to do – in their language!
Prepare Your Brain for the Future
Learning a new language isn’t only about feeling good and enjoying more authentic travel. You may also prevent – or at least slow the progress of – two degenerative brain diseases: Alzheimer’s and dementia. In the largest study on this topic, researchers at Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad, India, found bilingual people can delay both diseases by 4.5 years. I’d like to thank medical science for discovering a fun way for us to future-proof our brains.
I hope I’ve inspired you to download that language app or maybe take a class. ¿Qué idioma aprenderás?
Elizabeth “Amy” Ramirez is a freelance writer and writing coach