I speak to all sorts of expats, who live abroad for all manner of reasons, but those who have the most enjoyable lives tend to speak the local language, at least well enough to get by in an ordinary day-to-day conversation.
I’ve noticed the trend and so, apparently, has the science community. Various pieces of research deliver the same verdict – learning a second language is good for you in all sorts of exciting and unusual ways, quite apart from those you’d expect. So I thought it’d be useful to write a piece about the many cognitive and social advantages.
There’s no reason why you can’t learn a second language as an adult. And because it’s often easier to learn when you are immersed in it on an everyday basis, as an expat you’re in a good position. When everyone around you is speaking it, you find yourself picking up new words and phrases perfectly naturally. If you learned a second langauge at school you will know what I mean: you passed a language exam years ago but it only comes back to you once you’ve spent a few days on holiday, actually in that country, surrounded by the language 24/7. Bear that in mind and it’ll help boost your confidence in your innate abilities.
10 practical ways in which learning a new language enriches your life
Learning a second language:
- Results in better overall literacy skills
- Improves your academic progress in other subjects
- Boosts the development of related and unrelated skills
- Helps you with abstract and creative thinking
- Gives you a wonderful sense of achievement
- Promotes cultural, community and social awareness
- Fosters acceptance by the native people in your new country
- Enhances your career opportunities
- Makes your social life more lively, vibrant and fun
- Improves your self confidence
According to the scientist James Flynn, “The mind is much more like a muscle than we’ve ever realised… It needs to get cognitive exercise. It’s not some piece of clay on which you put an indelible mark.” Learning a new language is excellent cognitive exercise. And it plays an important part in broadening your mind. When you know the language you feel as though you play a genuine and useful part in the life of your new country, less like a visitor and more like a productive member of society who actually belongs there.
Speaking a second language even helps you understand your mother tongue better, because knowing the way another language works encourages you to think about its mechanics and origins.
If you’re taking your children with you, they will probably pick up the language faster than you and you can help one another learn. It’s good to join them on their exciting voyage of discovery rather than get left behind. It’s hard to beat as a unifying activity for the whole family. Learning something as fundamental as a new language together, whether it’s just you and your husband, wife or partner or you’re also moving abroad with children, is a wholly positive way to help yourselves genuinely belong.
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Image source: thedailyenglishshow