Knowledge of language brings freedom and is good for your brain
There are a number of advantages to learning a foreign language as an adult, for instance, it's good for your brain! Language Institute Regina Coeli explains.
The children of expats often speak several languages. If they move to another country, they pick up the language in no time through school, sports clubs or extra guidance. That extra language knowledge brings freedom: the possibility to communicate easily with the people around you.
This language development is less evident in the adults who work as expats around the world. When people speak the lingua franca of English, speaking the local language may not be strictly necessary, and so adults may be less motivated to learn a new language. But it’s very pleasant to be able to speak Dutch when you live and work in the Netherlands, especially if you have children.
You could go a step further and learn another foreign language. In the trading economy that is the Netherlands, being multilingual has big advantages. Plus, it’s also really good for your brain, so rise to the challenge and develop those linguistic brain cells!
Adults learn languages faster
You wouldn’t expect it, but as an adult, you can pick up foreign languages faster than children. Some reasons for this:
- As an adult, you can easily make connections and associations, which helps you remember new words better.
- You already understand the meaning of the words and only have to learn a new word for them. While you would have to explain to a 4-year-old what a mortgage is, all you need to know is the word for it in another language.
- You’re already familiar with grammatical structures. This helps in understanding the different grammar of another language.
The main difference is that as an adult, the bar tends to be set a bit higher. After all, children have simpler vocabularies.
How fast do you learn?
Of course, some people learn languages faster than others. Here are a few factors that determine how quickly you pick up a language:
Someone who’s not afraid to make mistakes and chats up everyone will soon find it much easier to speak a foreign language than someone who listens and counts the number of mistakes they hear. In this respect, we can learn a lot from children, who are more inclined to just go for it.
2. Exposure to the language
Someone who has heard the language many times before develops more of a feel for it and will learn it faster. Even in your mother tongue, you’re usually unaware of why you put the words in a certain order - you just know that it’s right. It works the same way when you listen to and read in a foreign language a lot.
3. Knowledge of other languages
If, for example, you already speak French, you’ll pick up Spanish more easily. That’s because the grammar and many words are similar. If you only speak your mother tongue, you’ll have to learn how to learn a new language and get used to the fact that the structure may be different to what you are accustomed to.
4. The method
Not all methods for learning foreign languages work equally well. You can spend years mastering grammar and still find it difficult to hold a conversation. It’s best to learn intuitively and derive the rules of the language from how it’s used rather than learning rules and words by heart.
Benefits for your brain, your career, and your circle of friends
There are a number of advantages to learning a foreign language as an adult:
- It’s good for your brain. By learning something new, you keep your brain active. Because language is found in many areas of the brain, it’s especially healthy for you. Studies have shown that people who speak several languages are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
- Speaking a number of languages is good for your career. It makes you more appealing to employers. Most companies have many international contacts and are eager to have employees who speak several languages.
- By speaking another language, you more easily come into contact with others who speak it. This way, you'll be able to grow your social circle and make new friends.
At Regina Coeli, they teach foreign languages to adults of all ages. How easily someone learns a language doesn’t so much depend on age but more on other factors. If you’re unsure, they can give you solid advice on how best to learn a foreign language. Please feel free to get in touch with them.