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7 Amazing Benefits of Learning a New Language

7 Amazing Benefits of Learning a New Language

There have been numerous studies pointing to the benefits of learning a new language. Yet, recent study shows that only 18% of Americans can fluently speak two or more languages.

Part of the reason is that learning a new language only becomes an interest to us once we reach adulthood, and we mistakenly think that it’s impossible to acquire a new language at a certain age. While it’s not a walk in the park, nearly anyone can learn a new language with a bit of motivation and diligence. Some people have more of an aptitude for learning languages, like children, but we shouldn’t let it discourage us from continuing to improve.

If you need more reasons to motivate yourself to learn a new language, here are 7 amazing benefits backed by science.

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1. You Will Improve Your Native Languages

It’s only when we learn a new language, that we can appreciate the roots and fundamentals of our native language. This is because we grew up speaking our native language, without much thought in terms of how sentence structures worked or breaking down the accents for each syllable.

According to the Impact of the Second Language Education, studying a second language alone will significantly improve the grammar, reading, vocabulary, and speaking skills of your first language. It’s similar to playing basketball your whole life, then learning how to play volleyball, and using those skills to improve your basketball game.

2. Enhances Your Focus

In a study, published online in the journal Brain and Language, individuals who spoke more than one language were observed through an fMRI, while performing word comprehension tasks. Results showed that multilingual individuals were better at filtering out competing words than one-language speaking individuals. This ability to tune out competing words benefits in blocking out distractions to focus on the task at hand.

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Luckily for us, studies have shown that even those of us with minimal knowledge of a secondary language can reap the advantages of these traits.

3. Prevents Common Brain Diseases

Hopefully none of us have to worry about this anytime soon, but aging is something that is common in all of us. When it comes to the brain, learning a new language can prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by 4.5 years. This is a far more powerful than the best drugs, which only delay the symptoms by 6–12 months.

4. Learn Anything Faster

In a study done in Massachusetts in 2007, the researchers have concluded that the “exercise in cognitive problem solving” through language learning can be directly applied to anything we want to learn. Your memory retention is also improved when learning a new language. Absorbing and retaining more information can significantly shorten your learning curve, because you can spend more time learning new information instead of re-learning something you’ve already seen before.

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5. Become More Outgoing And Liked By Others

Language learning is not only about communicating in a foreign language, it’s about experiencing a new culture.

The first reason is that meeting foreign people is embedded in the core of language learning. In order to practice and improve a new language, you’ll need to work with a native speaking teacher (or a coach on Rype), use conversation exchanges, or attend language meetups. This is similar to how you need to just ride the bicycle instead of watching videos about it, its just part of the process.

The experience of speaking with conversation partners is essentially the same as meeting anyone. The skills of being communicative and sociable are directly transferable to other areas of your life. Most importantly, learning a new language helps you step into the shoes of people different to yourself and see the world from a contrasting perspective — therefore developing empathy for others.

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6. Double Your Creativity

We often have to puzzle together words to form a sentence until it fits and makes sense for another person. Learning a new language improves your divergent thinking skills, training you to produce multiple solutions to problems on a consistent basis. This “out of the box” experimentation practice is why researchers have concluded that multilingual individuals are more creative than monolingual individuals.

7. Boost Your Confidence Level

When we set out to achieve something and find success, it boosts our confidence levels — no matter how small the success. Even being able to carry a 30-second conversation with a native speaker can significantly boost your confidence, because you know it’s something you wouldn’t have been able to do before.

This “yes, I can!” mentality will become your personal mantra, and can be applied to any goal you want to achieve in your life.

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More by this author

Sean Kim

Sean is the founder and CEO of Rype, a language learning app. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

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