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12 Surprising Benefits of Learning a New Language

12 Surprising Benefits of Learning a New Language

Learning a new language is a big deal.

You’re learning a completely new form of communication, and it enables you to communicate with people you never could have before.

But there’s benefits to learning a language that you might not have expected when you started the journey. I’ve personally experienced this having learned 3 languages in my life (Korean, English, and Spanish).

Think about the effect that losing weight has on someone’s life. While most people get into it for a healthier lifestyle, there can be surprising benefits like increased confidence, being more outgoing, and increased mental clarity.

The same thing can apply to language learning.

In this article, we’ll share the 12 surprising benefits you’ll experience when you learn a language.

1. Learn Anything Faster

Learning a new language is mental agility training at its best. The exercise in cognitive problem solving can without a doubt be applied to almost any problem we want to solve in other areas.

Your memory retention is also improved when learning a new language.[1] 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 learned before.

But it doesn’t stop there. Once you learn a new language, not only are you able to learn other languages faster (simply due to understanding the process), but you’ve already retained key skills for learning several other languages without even knowing it.

For example, if you recently learned how to speak Spanish, you’ve automatically entered the world of languages from the latin root, such as Portuguese, Italian, French, and Romanian. In fact, between these languages there are over a thousand words that are exactly the same, if not very similar to each other.

Screen-Shot-2016-03-07-at-8.00.09-AM

    Notice the similarity of the words between these languages.

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    2. Improve Your Math Skills

    For those of us who didn’t grow up with natural talents in mathematics, no need to fear.

    A study was done at Massachusetts in 2007, where The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages stated that:[2]

    “Children who study a foreign language, even when this second language study takes time away from the study of mathematics, outperform students who do not study a foreign language and have more mathematical instruction during the school day.”

    In another study published in the University of Michigan’s Language Learning journal (Armstrong and Rogers, 1997), students who studied just one semester of a foreign language for just 90 minutes per week scored significantly higher in maths and language arts.

    If you think about it, it makes sense. Learning a language involves a structural and logical process, which is the same type of thinking that makes you thrive in mathematics.

    3. Become a Better Listener

    This is a skillset that comes in handy for any situation throughout our lives.

    If you’re trying to build a real connection with anyone, there’s nothing better than intentional listening without interruption. This is one of the key elements taught in Dale Carnegie’s, How to Win Friends and Influence People.

    When learning a language, there’s no choice but to train yourself to listen carefully, because you’re trying to make out every accent, pronunciation, and tone used by the other person. And if you’re just starting out, you’re forced to listen because you can’t speak the language!

    Most importantly, learning a new language helps you step into the shoes of people different to yourself and see the world in a completely different way— therefore developing empathy for others.

    4. 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.[3] This is a far more powerful than the best drugs which only delay the symptoms by 6–12 months.[4]

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    The American Academy of Neurology has performed studies showing that speaking more than one language increases the amount of neural pathways in the brain, allowing information to be processed through a greater variety of channels.

    7. Improve Your Native Language

    We discussed how learning one language can help you pick up not only other languages, but familiarize yourself with languages originating from the same root.

    What most people don’t mention enough, is that it can also help you improve your native language.

    According to an Impact of the Second Language Education study, studying a second language alone will significantly improve your first language skills in areas relating to grammar, reading, vocabulary, and speaking skills.[5]

    This makes sense because learning a new language allows you to understand the structures and breakdown of a language, whereas this is something you likely intuitively picked up when you learned your native language.

    8. Increase Your Creativity

    Language learning is a lot like putting together the pieces of a new puzzle.

    You understand several, but not all of the words that are thrown at you, so you have to force yourself to be creative and fill the missing gaps on your own.

    creative-brain2

      This research concludes that bilingual individuals have a more “out of the box” thinking approach than monolingual individuals.[6]

      While most creativity training occurs in waves (meaning on and off), there’s no taking breaks when you’re having a conversation with someone. You either have to force yourself to become creative in your interpretation and speaking skills, or you’ll need to face up to the awkward silence that follows.

      9. Culturally Knowledgeable

      Language learning is not only about communicating in a foreign language, but 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 your new language, you’ll need to work with a language teacher, 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: it’s just part of the process.

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      The majority of conflicts between people in the world come from a lack of understanding of the other side. Studying a new language not only helps you understand where the other person is coming from, but the cultural knowledge you gain can help others feel more connected to you.

      10. Open up New Career Opportunities

      In the past decade, we’ve experienced a rapidly growing trend of globalization. With the Internet era, there is no such thing as doing local business. Nearly every business that opens up today is an online business, and has the ability to reach a global market in seconds.

      Big corporations are working fast to expand internationally to Asia, Europe, and South America, and understanding a foreign language will in the future likely become as standard as knowing Microsoft Word.

      Irene Missen, a language specialist at a top recruitment agency, Euro London, says that languages can open doors for you, and estimates a language can add between 10% and 15% to your wage.[7]

      When it comes to advancing your career, it’s critical to leave no doors closed. Learning a new language takes time, and it’s far better to learn it before you need it than to be unprepared at your next job interview.

      11. Experience a New Way of Traveling

      This is a big one, and often one that’s hard to understand unless you know another language.

      For example, learning how to speak Spanish before you visit Spain for the first time, will give you an entirely different travel experience versus not knowing the language.

      When you can speak the language of the place you’re traveling to, you’re no longer dependent on the typical tourism tips that you’ll get from Tripadvisor. You can build relationships with the locals, and discover restaurants, hot spots, and excursions that tourism websites will never be able to share with you.

      You get to experience the new culture from the eyes of a local, instead of a tourist.

      12. Deepen Your Relationships

      Almost everyone who comes from a different cultural background can probably empathize with this point. With my limited ability to speak Korean, I struggled growing up with Korean family members.

      Luckily, I was able to improve my skills over time (surprisingly, from learning Spanish). But I constantly see people who struggle to have that connection with their family members, friends, or even life partner, because of this language barrier.

      As we shared in this post, the majority of the world’s problem comes down to communication problems. And there’s no bigger barrier to communication than the languages we are able to speak with each other!

      Featured photo credit: Dan Gold via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Science Direct: Working memory development in monolingual and bilingual children
      [2] Daily News Minder: The benefits of learning a foreign language
      [3] AAAS: Bilingual brains better equipped to process information))

      Results showed that multi-lingual 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.

      As your listening skill improves, it only makes sense that it enhances your focus as well. Just like learning any new skill, learning a language requires your full, undivided attention. One slight distraction can mean the difference between one meaning and a completely different one.

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      Over time, your brain will be trained to maintain this level of focus.

      5. Boost Your Confidence

      When we set out to achieve something and find success, it boosts our confidence levels — no matter how small the progress.

      Even being able to carry a 30-second conversation with a native speaker can make you more confident, because you know it’s something you wouldn’t have been able to do before.

      “Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” — E.E. Cummings

      I still remember the “aha moment” I experienced when I was living in Medellin, Colombia. I was living with a roommate who couldn’t speak a word of English when I first moved in. After a few months of using an online app to learn Spanish, I was able to get to a conversation level of fluency. It amazed me how I was suddenly able to speak to someone that I couldn’t have fathomed speaking to before.

      Needlessly to say, as the language barrier disappeared, our positive perception of each other increased dramatically, and so did our friendship.

      This confidence boost only pushed me to learn more, engage with more native speakers, and it translated into more confidence in every aspect of my life.

      Author of Lean Forward, Eric Holtzclaw, states that it is powerful how even a tiny change in perspective can pull you out of a funk and give “you the boost you need to take on that next challenge.”

      6. Prevent Potential Brain Diseases

      Improving our health is something that should be a priority for every one of us, no matter how old we are. Most of us consider improving our health in a few major areas, like our physical appearance. But we tend to miss out on the most important part that runs our entire body — the brain.

      We are nothing without the vital functions of our brain, and we need to prioritize its health like we would with any other vital organ in our body.

      brain-languagemap

        When it comes to the brain, learning a new language can prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by 4.5 years.((Neurology: Bilingualism delays age at onset of dementia, independent of education and immigration status

        [4] Alzheimer’s Association: Medications for Memory
        [5] Rype: 8 Science-Backed Benefits of Learning a New Language
        [6] Cerebrum Dana Foundation: The Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual
        [7] Guardian: Learning a foreign language: Now you’re talking

        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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        Last Updated on February 11, 2021

        Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

        Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

        How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

        Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

        The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

        Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

        Perceptual Barrier

        The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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        The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

        The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

        Attitudinal Barrier

        Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

        The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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        The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

        Language Barrier

        This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

        The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

        The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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        Emotional Barrier

        Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

        The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

        The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

        Cultural Barrier

        Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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        The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

        The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

        Gender Barrier

        Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

        The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

        The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

        And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

        Reference

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