Erma Nezirevic, Instructor

The Benefits of Learning a Language

They say “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” However, based on what is known about the plasticity of our brains and language learning, we can safely discard that assumption. Studies have shown that it is not our age that impacts language acquisition, but rather, it is the exposure to the language. So we do not need to be so hard on ourselves when it comes to learning a language as these old myths would have it.

Learning a language presupposes a significant investment of time dedicated to the practice that sometimes even includes full immersion. Many of us find the idea of knowing another language very appealing, but we tend to think that we just cannot commit a lot of time, that we just don’t have the knack for it, or that we are at a certain age when it’s simply too late for that. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) maintains that all students should maintain the learning of one other language in addition to English in the United States. Even though as adults, we are no longer students and we lead very busy lives, it’s important to think about the benefits of learning another language. Here are five that might just make you throw yourself into the deep end:

#1 Brain Benefits

If we learn another language, not only is our brain going to store more information, but we're going to improve our memory, both long and short term. According to recent studies we are likely to fend off diseases such as Alzheimer's if we are bilingual because it impacts the brain’s cognitive reserve, which in turn improves executive and visual and spatial functioning. 

#2 Thinking outside the box

Another major benefit of learning a language is the improvement of critical and creative thinking skills. This means we have an increased mental agility that makes us see many issues beyond the surface and from several different angles. Increased creativity can significantly improve our personal and professional lives. 

#3 Expanding our circle of friends

Let's face it! In the (post-?)pandemic world we focused on the value of our relationships since social distancing forced us to make an extra effort to stay connected. We looked for ways to make new friends and used technology to connect with people at a distance. Jumping into an online language course is also an investment in more meaningful connections. By joining a class, you're automatically included in a group of people with a very similar mission. Using our flipped model approach, you can spend more time in class using the language in context. This also means that beyond the classroom, experiences such as traveling can open up new horizons with international friends. 

#4 Career Opportunities

Having a certain amount of proficiency in a second language very frequently guarantees new promising and fulfilling career prospects. Whether we work in the fields of business or marketing, law, or medicine for example, our world has seemingly shrunk, as many employers work globally. Research shows that being bilingual or multilingual can earn you from 5% to 20% more per hour. Language differentials in compensation are often significant. Employers are not only focused on direct communication with those who speak it in our field of work, but also value that being bilingual can make us better problem solvers and more flexible thinkers.

#5 Cultural Awareness and Tolerance

The more we involve ourselves in learning a language, the more exposed we are to different cultures. Keeping in mind that no language exists in a vacuum, the process of learning will lead us to get to know other ways of life, which in a world that increasingly feels more divided, the ability to see and understand other perspectives can have long lasting collective benefits. Being open to viewing life from a different perspective trains our brains to be more empathetic towards others. 
It is time to bust the myth that some of us just can’t learn another language because we are too old or because we are not wired that way. In fact, signing up for a class might just be one of the best ways to invest in ourselves. Why not maximize our brain power while also having fun and making connections? Know your level? Take the placement test here and start your learning journey today! 
About the Author: Erma Nezirevic

Born in Bosnia, Erma grew up in Croatia and learned Spanish and English at a very young age through telenovelas and sitcoms. Upon moving to the U.S. in high school, she began formally studying Spanish and did not stop until completing a Ph.D. in Hispanic Literature and Cultures at the University of Minnesota. 

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