Why Learn Languages?

why learn a language-

I am absolutely passionate about the benefits that learning a Language can bring to anyone of any age.

To have the opportunity to teach our students two languages from such a young age is a tremendous privilege.  For them and for me!

I often get asked why it’s such a good idea….  I mean, in this age of Google Translate, and the whole world speaking English (or so we’d like to think, particularly in isolated Australia) surely we don’t need this any more.

Yes, Google Translate is a fabulous resource.  I love it and use it myself for all sorts of things. But….

I believe nothing can compare to the magical delight of communicating with someone in their own language.  Of being in another place, and being able to understand and find your way around, and buy what you want.  To converse with complete strangers, and be understood.

I love seeing the delight on my students’ faces when they understand a video or song that is completely in German.

But those are my experiences, and it’s a bit like preaching to the choir, isn’t it?  So let’s look at some good solid research on why it’s great to learn another language.

If a child asks me why they should learn another language, I often give them quite a simplistic answer:  “It makes you smarter!”

Nothing in life is really that straightforward, but it’s a simple way to communicate the power of learning a language to children.

If you don’t feel like reading through my summary of the research I’ve read, feel free to jump straight to the bottom.  There’s some great links there – to a short video on the benefits of learning languages, and an infographic that summarises it too.  Take a look at them both and see what takes you by surprise!

If you’d like to hear my experiences and ideas, please read on!

Languages open doors – to other places, other ways of living, that not everyone is like me, and yet they are just like me in the things that matter.

I think learning a Language enlarges the soul.

Languages enhance your understanding of your own language.  You speak your own language well (usually) because you have absorbed it, without realising it.  Learning a second language allows you to step outside of your own, and understand the ways in which Languages are systems, with rules, with grammar.  Learning a second language lets you compare them, and manipulate them, instead of your first language being your own, unexamined ‘normal’.

My background is in Psychology, and my particular interest is in Neuropsychology.  How our incredible brains work, and change over time.  And the things we can do to make them continue to grow and be healthy.  Learning Languages builds pathways in your brain.  You develop metacognitive skills, better analysis skills, patterns, deductions, and if you are committed and work on memorising your learning, that too can benefit you. (And as an aside, far from being pointless and mundane, rote learning large slabs of text actually improves your brain’s reasoning abilities – you can carry out extensive thought processes, that allow you to reason through to the end of what you are pondering.)  Learning another language can help you right throughout your life…  It has even been proven to protect against the onset & impact of dementia.

And don’t worry, you don’t have to achieve true bilingualism to have benefited from the learning of language, there’s evidence to show that students’ results improve in other areas just from participating in some language learning.

this infographic came from this blog here:

http://www.bhlingual.com/how-the-brain-benefits-from-being-bilingual-infographic-blog

it’s got so much fabulous information if you want to investigate further.

Here’s a fabulous Ted video about the benefits of bilingualism…

https://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-speaking-multiple-languages-benefits-the-brain-mia-nacamulli

All of these ideas are from reading that I’ve done in the past few years in order to contribute my experience to a book written about Languages Teachers experiences and perspectives.  The references are below.

Want to know more?  John le Carre recently wrote this beautifully written article about his journey with languages, German in particular.

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/jul/02/why-we-should-learn-german-john-le-carre

and a colleague of mine wrote this..

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-we-should-learn-german-my-response-vicki-drozdowski

and while I’m promoting German, let’s look at the financial benefits of speaking it…

https://www.adzuna.co.uk/blog/2016/09/26/which-languages-do-the-highest-paid-jobs-ask-for/

What benefits have you discovered from learning another language?

 

References

Absalom, M. (2014). What works: What we knew, what we know, what we think we know and what we need to do – Keynote Address. AIS 2014 Languages Conference: Languages Education – Vital and Viable. Sydney: https://aisnswlanguages.wikispaces.com/AIS+Languages+Conference+2014+-+Languages+Education+-+Vital+and+Viable. Retrieved from https://prezi.com/hvjhkbnlixkv/what-we-knew/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

ACARA. (2011). The Shape of the Australian Curriculum: Languages. Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. Retrieved from http://www.acara.edu.au/verve/_resources/Languages_-_Shape_of_the_Australian_Curriculum_new.pdf

Bialystok, E. (2009). Bilingualism: The Good, The Bad, and the Indifferent. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 12(1), 3-11.

Fernandez. (2007). Promoting the Benefits of Language Learning: Report to the Department of Education & Training. Melbourne: Research Unit for Mulitlingualism and Cross Cultural Communication at University of Melbourne.

Kroll. (2011). Juggling Languages can build better brains. American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved from http://news.psu.edu/story160653/2011/02/18/juggling-languages-can-build-better-brains)

Lo Bianco, J. &. (2009). Second Languages & Australian Schooling. Melbourne: ACER.

Merritt, A. (2013). Why learn a foreign language: Benefits of bilingualism. http://www.telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationopinion/10126883/Why-learn-a-foreign-language-Benefits-of-bilingualism.html

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Why Learn Languages?

  1. What an awesome post Justine. Concur completely with absolutely everything!

    We well put together…nothing new, but a nice piece for everyone to understand. Anni x

    ________________________________

    Like

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