There are two types of people: those who love and welcome the challenge of learning new languages, and those who dread it and think it’s a hassle. No matter what camp you’re in, you should keep in mind that learning a new language is so beneficial that it’s definitely worth a try, and here’s why.
These are the main benefits of learning a foreign language:
Learning a new language is so much more than just an extra point on your resume, or a way to a communicate when you’re abroad, it is a proven preventative method of Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as an overall booster of your intelligence and brain power.
A 2019 study in the journal Biology showed that humans can encode new information during a specific stage of the sleep cycle. In the study, participants were listening to new words in a foreign language through headphones while taking a nap.
Crucially, the participants memorized new information only during deep sleep, as it is during this stage in the sleep cycle that your hippocampus, the brain area associated with the formation of long-term memories, is most active.
An interesting finding was that participants that were learning new foreign words in their sleep also activated their mid-temporal gyrus, a language are known to be responsible for word understanding.
Knowing all this scientific data, you can actually put it to good use, but make sure to follow these tips:
Do this a few weeks before going on an overseas vacation, and you may end up communicating with the locals more fluently than you anticipated.
Do you like reading? If so, you’re in luck, as we actually memorize words in a new language the best while reading in that language. A pleasant side effect is that you can read a great book at the same time as learning a new language.
For this technique, you will need the same book written in the same language. Sidenote: bilingual books are also sometimes available for purchase, so if you find one, great, but 2 different books will do just as well.
From then on everything is pretty straightforward: start reading both books and if you don’t understand something in the new language, look it up in the other book.
Do, however, make use of the following tips:
What if I told you that you already know a lot of words in a language you know nothing about? I’m talking about cognates or mutually-intelligible words in different languages.
This means that you will practically never have to learn a language from scratch, as you already know a lot of useful words in the foreign language without ever learning them.
In fact, native speakers of English are one of the luckiest, as English borrows heaps of words from Romance languages, and also shared English terms with half of the world.
So, for example, if you’re about to start learning a Romance language, like French, you will already understand all words ending in -tion, such as nation, solution, tradition, communication, and thousands of others, so all you’ll have to do is to adjust the French pronunciation.
Now change that -tion ending into -ción, and you already learned the same words in Spanish. Similarly, many other languages borrowed the same English or Romance words and simply adjusted the spelling to their own alphabet.
The Russian words for communication and tradition will be pronounced as “communica-tsia” and “tradi-tsia”, for example. And there is a vast amount of such words in most languages.
Tip: to search for cognates in the language you’re about to learn, simply search for “[language name] cognates” or “[language name] English loan words]" in Google or whatever search engine you prefer.
Teachers and linguists alike agree that the most effective way to learn a language is through immersion into that language. Luckily, nowadays you don’t have to travel to do so, and heaps of data in every possible foreign language are just one click away from you.
You can do several things to immerse yourself in the foreign language:
We could continue this list of useful tools and techniques for hours, but we believe that these were the most useful and accessible tools. We wish you happy language-learning!