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Language Learning: An asset for life

Updated: Oct 29, 2022

Those of you who know me know that we are a bilingual family (English/Spanish). And with our daughter starting kindergarten in French, we will soon become a trilingual family. Our daughter doesn't speak any French at the moment, so to prepare her for kindergarten, we will be introducing French through play, music and books. Sounds fun right?

This has got me thinking about how we, as adults, sometimes perceive learning a language. It can seem like a burdensome task, with hours of repetitiveness and tedious exercises, and most of the time, we do it because there is one objective in mind: to pass a test so we can get back to our daily jobs. We forget about the fun and interesting aspects of a language: the food, music and literature, to name a few. This, to me, is the beauty of learning another language. It provides the opportunity to learn about other cultures, and expand our mind.

I always wonder how much more productive language learning would be if we surrounded ourselves with the foods, the music and books while learning another language! Submerging yourself in another language doing fun activities that are interesting to you is the best way to really be able to learn a second language! I remember my dad telling me the story of a college friend who linked the light switch to his living room stereo so that when he turned on the light, the tape recorder would start and he would be listening to Japanese! That's the way to go!

As I read basic baby books to my four year old, I'm also reminded about the importance of being patient and building confidence. These are perhaps the most forgotten elements when comes to language learning. Fostering an environment where you feel comfortable practicing and knowing that you will not be corrected constantly or embarrassed provides encouragement and allows you to develop your language. In the workplace, I think this can be translated into encouraging those that are learning a language to practice it, no matter the level, to be patient with them as they look for the words and to not correct them constantly, so that they too can build confidence, and continue to grow.

Finally, as adults, I think it's important to remember that there are a lot more benefits to language learning than just passing a test. Ample research suggests that bilingual brains, and those who practice more than one language regularly, are better protected from the symptoms of dementia. On average, symptoms develop five years later in bilinguals. The full benefits of practicing bilingualism daily into old age are still unknown, but so far they seem to indicate that they can be quite positive!

If you are on a language journey, I commend you for your efforts and encourage you to keep on going!


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