Learning a new language can seriously improve your life. Is that really true? How and why? The main benefits to you as an individual are related to improved cognitive functions and social interactions, improvements in mental health and in many cases better economic prospects.

Improved cognitive functions

Regardless of your age when you start to learn a new language, you will be exercising your brain and using mental skills that improve the overall function of your brain. These are functions like improved memory, both long and short-term. As we know, our memory skills often start to deteriorate after the age of 40 and often we can experience a more serious deterioration after the age of 70. Learning a language forces us to use our short- and long-term memory skills. Therefore, language learning can also delay the onset of dementia, which is particularly associated with memory problems. In addition, studies have shown that bilingual people are twice as likely to recover from a stroke as monolingual people.

Our creative thinking and our problem-solving skills are also significantly enhanced when we engage in learning a new language. Both, along with improved memory skills will enhance our performance in other spheres, such as education and the workplace.

Social interactions

Learning a new language involves communication. This means more social interactions with new people in the new language. In addition, the improved cognitive skills, along with more flexible and more creative thinking helps to improve all social interactions including our native language. We can be more thoughtful people. New languages can improve our attitudes to other people and cultures as our mind is expanded by the process of learning a new language as well as by the ability to communicate with more people such as speakers of that language. Language learning can also improve our overall verbal and spatial abilities. This inevitably has a positive impact on our social interactions.

Improvements in mental health

The consequence of improved cognitive functions and improvements in social interactions is improved mental health. The sense of achievement when reaching milestones in the language learning process, the feedback from tutors and speakers of the target language and the widening scope of your world view can lead to a sense of contentment. Low self-esteem can be reduced, and self-confidence significantly increased. Interactions with others and concentrating on learning tasks and activities reduces the time and mental space available to spend on otherwise detrimental thought patterns of self-criticism or spiralling negative thoughts. Multiple world views, the ability to empathise with people and understand other cultures all help to improve our communication and thinking skills which in turn result in improved mental health.

Better economic prospects

Depending on the circumstances, the acquisition of a second language can have significant benefits in the workplace. Firstly, it shows you can learn effectively. Secondly, being able to communicate in more than one language means that you can cast the net wider in terms of the location in which you choose to work in addition to your chosen field of activity. Because the language learning process produces significant improvements in cognitive functions, memory and verbal and spatial skills, this increases the achievement level in all academic and work-related activities. There is a body of evidence showing that students studying in a bilingual school setting have higher overall grades compared with their peers in monolingual educational settings. People who have learned languages often command more senior roles and consequently better incomes. Or for people who are not drawn to increasing their earning capacity, for example, people who choose to work in more humanitarian fields, increased language skills can enable them to contribute more effectively to their chosen field of operation.

What is the best age at which to learn a language?

There is no definitive answer to this question. Or we could say that every age is a good age to learn a new language. As young children, language is acquired by being exposed to the target language. It is assimilated rather than being learned as a learning activity. Many people believe that this means that you must learn languages at a very young age. It may be true that it may require less conscious effort for a young child to assimilate a new language in a way similar to assimilating their mother language. However, neuroscientists have proved that in adolescence, neural pathways which formed prior to the age of 5 breaks down and are reformed. This is an optimal age for learning new skills such as new languages, all types of athletic activities and playing musical instruments as well as acquiring large volumes of knowledge. Hence the proliferation of language learning in adolescence in school systems throughout the world. But in fact, learning a language in later adulthood has even more benefits in terms of improving cognitive skills including long- and short-term memory just at a time when those skills may be going into decline. It may require a more conscious effort and more perseverance, but it is precisely for those reasons that it is such an excellent activity for the older person. In addition, once you have learned one new language, the language learning process becomes less burdensome, and progress can be quite significant.

Which languages should I learn?

The process of learning any language will result in these significant improvements in your life. It makes sense to choose a language that you have some affinity with or a good reason to want to speak it. In other words, you need to have good motivation. It may be a language that is spoken where you live but which you do not speak. It may be the language spoken in a favourite holiday destination. This could be the case for the Greek language, as Greece and Cyprus are both favourite holiday destinations and also, they are countries that welcome people from all over Europe, and further away, who choose to live there permanently or to spend a large part of their time there.

Language-learning delivery methods

We usually think of learning a language sitting in a traditional classroom with other students and facing a teacher. But in today’s world, online learning provides a more flexible approach. Schedules, pace, and content can be adapted for individual learners. This means that learning and teaching are tailored to the students’ needs and preferences. An example of such a language school is the Online Greek Tutor. This team of experienced tutors offers Greek language lessons delivered online via Zoom or Skype or other platforms as they become available. Lessons may be taken one-to-one, in pairs or in groups. Classes are offered in General Greek, Conversational Greek, Greek for tourists and Cypriot Greek. Students may be complete beginners or any level up to proficiency level. Learners may wish to be able to use basic phrases in a tourist setting or converse with Greek-speaking relatives or they may wish to learn Greek for academic purposes and take exams to document their progress and achievements. All in all, The Online Greek Tutor is an ideal provider of Greek language learning to cover all students’ likely needs and learning styles.

Most importantly, whichever language you choose to learn and with whichever provider, the main message is that language learning will improve your life significantly.

Author's Bio: 

My name is Valentinos Filippou. I have been an online Greek tutor since 2014. I’ve been teaching one-on-one Skype lessons and making video lessons for my students so as to explain different aspects of the Greek language. I have also developed the 50 Natural Greek Expressions Course which will help you learn the 50 most common expressions that Greek people use in daily life. I have also spent three years at Liverpool’s Greek School in Liverpool (UK) teaching and giving private Greek lessons there. I focus on general, everyday Greek and I now specialize in adult learners. During the lessons, I make sure that my students are relaxed and comfortable with me. I also give lots of advice on how you can make the most of the lessons and how to improve learning from interactions outside class. I am a book-lover (I read on average two books a month), I enjoy books of many types (books on personal and professional development; on business; novels etc). I also enjoy playing football and love spending time with my wife, Maria.