By Rachel Rowland ( ABC School’s Academic Coordinator )
As Autumn sweeps in, many of us start to think about self-improvement and many contemplate learning a new skill. Within schools and colleges, the new academic year starts in September and it is widely considered to be a good time of year to make a fresh start. But you do not need to be a full-time student to learn a new language and learning a second language can be possible and rewarding at any age. Here are just a few of the many benefits of learning a second language.
Improves Brain Function
According to new research, learning a second language may improve brain function. A recent study in India found that bilingual adults, who were asked to perform a series of tests, were better able to ignore irrelevant stimuli and focus on relevant information. Dr. Thomas Bak, who led the study, believes that a reason for this ability is due to the process of learning two languages and switching back and forth between two languages trains the brain to be more receptive to auditory information. Bak believes that this level of concentration could enable a person to extract relevant information from lectures and long meetings rather than focusing on unnecessary details.
In addition, learning a second language can improve your memory. The Journal of Experimental Psychology reported that bilingual children did consistently better than monolingual children in various tasks which involved using working memory. When learning a new language, you are forced to work your memory on a regular basis, storing new language items in your short-term and long- term memory.
Amazingly, scientists in Sweden discovered that learning a second language can cause your brain to grow in size. The scientists used brain scans to monitor what happened in the brain whilst military recruits were learning new languages, including Russian and Arabic, compared to the brains of a control group who studied hard in other subjects, but not languages. The study revealed that specific parts of the brains of the language students developed in size whereas the brain structures of the control group did not change.
Better Understanding of other Cultures
Learning a new language without understanding the culture behind it is like cooking Indian food without the correct spices. You will never experience the real, authentic flavour! Immersing yourself in a new language opens you up to different ways of thinking. When you know more about the people you’re talking to, you have a greater chance of saying the right words at the right time. In addition, language is not just about words. There are many gestures which have different meanings for different cultures. For example, a shake of the head in English means no whereas in Turkish, no is represented by a backwards tilt of the head, often with the eyebrows raised. Understanding the differences can help you to understand more about people and will help you to avoid miscommunication! In addition, learning about how local people live and talk introduces a human side to the language, which keeps you interested in the learning process. Travelling to the country where the language originates from will give you the opportunity to practise using the language in a real- life context. You will not only be able to hear how natives speak, but you will get to communicate with them as well.
We are now living in an increasingly multicultural world and business is becoming more global. Therefore, there is always a demand for people who can speak more than one language to help bridge the communication gap. It is hardly surprising that as many companies are becoming more connected globally, they need staff with the global mindset and flexibility to match. Employees nowadays are much more likely to travel abroad for business than ever before so recruiting the right people, with the language skills to match, is essential for business success.
As you can see, there are many advantages to learning a second language. From improving your brain function and developing your understanding of others to opening yourself up to new career opportunities, the possibilities are endless. Why not get started today? We have Spanish and English classes available at our school. Please contact our reception team for more information. Happy learning!