Why Learn a Language in Later Life?

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Whether you’re relocating to a new country or just keen to order a glass of wine on holiday, language expert and our founder of Language for Fun Jessica Bonnard reveals the surprising benefits of learning a new language in adulthood.

Former school-teacher Jessica Bonnard is passionate about French language and culture. After noticing that many language courses for adults took the ‘fun’ out of learning, she was determined to champion the benefits of learning a different language in an enjoyable and innovative way.

Understanding that in addition to acquiring a new skill, the advantages of learning a language are many and varied, Jessica is determined to spread the word that, even in adulthood, learning a language can be fun. In 2007 she established her business Language for Fun, where lessons are conducted using games and interactive techniques and the focus is on fun and conversation, rather than results and written work.

Read on for Jessica’s top five tips on learning a language in later life, including how it can improve your health and outlook in many ways!

Have Fun!

Whatever your motivation for learning to speak a new language, the most important element is to make sure you’re having fun!

We all know it’s easier to absorb information and remain positive in an informal and enjoyable setting. Remember that when you start your language class, everyone is in the same boat and has a common goal. It’s important to relax, and really be able to enjoy yourself to get the most out of your language classes.

Many of our learners become firm friends and find that their new interest sparks a huge amount of fun and enjoyment. And of course, after the difficulties of recent times, having a reason to get out of the house, meet new people and pursue a new interest, can offer a real, mental boost.   If you’re still not feeling confident about socialising face-to-face, many courses are permanently online – so there’s something to suit everyone.

Get Creative!

When learning a new language, creativity is key! It involves stepping out of your comfort zone, thinking carefully about how you’re expressing yourself and being ‘brave’ enough to experiment with the new linguistic skills that you’re acquiring.

For some, creativity stems from searching for the right words to make yourself understood. For others, it’s getting up the confidence to try out your newfound skills in front of an audience; maybe a member of your family or someone in your language class. We never make learners speak out in front of others, but the opportunity is there when people are ready.  And we make sure people feel comfortable making mistakes as it’s the only way to improve!

A Healthier Brain

Research has proven that the act of remembering and recalling new words and phrases, which is involved in the learning of a new language, provides a true ‘work-out’ for the brain. So much so, that it can actually improve the health of your brain, by strengthening and developing the area of the brain which is responsible for short term memory.

Delayed Cognitive Degeneration

It’s recognised that individuals who can speak a second language are able to successfully delay or reduce the risk of the onset of Dementia and Alzheimer’s by up to five years. This is regardless of the age at which the new language was learned. In the same way that doing puzzles or other ‘brain games’ can help to keep the brain ‘fit’, learning a language creates a cognitive reserve. On average people who speak more than one language are found to have better cognitive functioning for their age.

Soaring Self-Confidence

Many learners come to us full of motivation, but lacking self-belief. After being away from a traditional learning environment for many years, it is easy to think you may struggle to pick up a new skill.

Learning a new language proves to yourself that you are capable of whatever you put your mind to! It is a real confidence boost and it’s incredibly satisfying to see adult learners grow in skill-level and belief.

By buddying up with different learners several times in each lesson, we find that people create close bonds and are able to use their new-found friendships to encourage themselves and each other to achieve and progress faster than they expected.

If you have been inspired to try your hand at learning a new language, Jessica’s Language for Fun classes focus on French, Spanish and Italian and are run across the UK, either in person or via a virtual learning environment.