You might be thinking you are too old to start learning a second language, but according to language experts you are not. Not only is it possible to learn a new language as an adult, even after 50, it can also be fun. What’s more, it’s even easier to learn a new language these days than ever before, thanks to all the technology that’s out there.
Learning a new language can enrich your life in several ways including opening up the world and allowing you to communicate with new people. Another important benefit is that it improves your cognitive abilities. This can go a long way to reduce your risk of dementia as you age.
What’s more, learning a new language can improve your brain function regardless of what age you start. So it’s never too late to try, even if you’re in your senior years. Here’s a rundown on some of the brain-boosting benefits of learning another language.
Flex your Mental Muscles – Learn A New Language As An Adult
If you stop exercising, over time your muscles become weaker and will eventually atrophy. The same thing happens to your brain when you stop challenging it, which can potentially lead to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. However, learning a new language can strengthen neural connections and even create new ones.
As well as improving your cognitive abilities, learning another language can help to protect your brain against cognitive decline as you grow older. As long as you keep learning, you can grow new neuronal connections throughout your life. Learning a new language is the mental equivalent of a regular workout at the gym.
Developing Decision Making
When you’re faced with a decision or thinking through a problem, using a foreign language can help you make a more analytic decision. This is true in the business world and other aspects of life.
The likely reason for this is that when you mull over a problem in your non-native tongue, it helps you to really think it through, rather than merely relying on your intuition. This helps you to eliminate personal bias when you are making an important decision. It also improves your critical thinking skills in each of the languages that you speak.
Cultivate your Creativity
When you begin to learn a new language, your brain immediately has access to a wider vocabulary. It also helps to create neural connections between fluency, flexibility, and originality. New languages increase your creativity as you search for terms or phrases to help you express yourself.
As people age, they tend to deliberate more over which words they use. Adding a new language to your repertoire can help you choose new words to color your world and your experience of it. In this way, you enhance your creativity and your mental well-being as a whole.
Advance your Attentiveness
These days, people are so bombarded with information and sensory input that it can be difficult to focus attention on a particular subject or task. However, learning a new language can help you increase your attention and make it easier for you to focus on the task at hand.
This is because when you speak multiple languages, your brain has to work to juggle them all. For example, when you are listening to someone speak in German, your brain does not turn off your knowledge of English. You are listening in multiple languages at the same time. In order to do this, you are relying on several different complex cognitive abilities, which means your attention is more sharply focused.
Multitasking is useful because it can help you become more productive. This in turn helps you to feel more accomplished and will increase your motivation. Multitasking can become more difficult as you get older because it requires switching between different neurological networks, namely short-term memory and intense focus. For more mature brains, making the switch becomes more difficult.
Studies show that people who speak multiple languages have increased cognitive flexibility. What this means, is that learning a second language makes it easier for you to switch between different mental states or different strategies or tasks. So, multitasking also becomes easier.
Where to Learn a New Language
There are numerous places to learn a new language online, many are free. Here are some of the most popular:
- Duolingo: If you’re looking for a free app to help you learn a new language, Duolingo is one of the most popular. This is probably because it makes learning fun with its game-like approach. Once you have created a profile you can choose from more than 20 different languages including French, Spanish, Japanese, Irish, Arabic, and Danish. You can then launch a beginner’s course or take tests to move up to higher levels if you already have a basic foundation in the language you have chosen. Duolingo is available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.
- Babbel: The Babbel app can help you become fluent with ease. You can choose from 13languages including French, Spanish, Indonesian, German, Italian, Dutch, and Russian. Unlike many other online language courses, Babble does not only teach you to speak the language, but also to read and write it. The beginner courses are free, and you can pay for more advanced courses as you move on. It’s compatible with all devices.
- Open Culture: If you are looking for a wider range of language options, Open Culture is the app for you. This portal offers a total of 48 languages including English, French, Dutch, Chinese, Farsi, and Korean. All lessons are downloadable.
- Busuu: Another favorite, Busuu offers daily training in 12 languages such as French, German, Italian, Samish, Russian, Arabic, Japanese, and Polish. The courses include exercises with native speakers as well as accent training and reviews. If you’re not a complete beginner, you can begin with a brief test that will place you at the right level. You can also choose a premium upgrade to obtain certification in your chosen language.
- Mondly: With Mondly you can choose from a monthly, annual, or lifetime subscription. This app uses several different language learning techniques such as conversational learning and flashcards. Choose from 40 languages including Spanish, Portuguese, Hebrew, Latin, Swedish, Greek, and Croatian. You can connect with friends and family through the app to turn language learning into a game or friendly competition. Alternatively, you can converse with Mondly’s chatbot.
It’s Never too Late to Learn
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your world is shrinking as you age. You are never too old to stop learning new things and a new language is a great place to start. Not only will it help to keep your aging brain active and alert, but it will also open new travel opportunities and give you the chance to make new friends.
Remember, learning languages is not just for kids. Though younger people may learn a new language a little quicker than their older friends and family members, more mature men and women have some unique advantages in learning a new language, such as more time and better technology.
It’s never too late to learn a new language, so why not start today?