1. English as part of a healthy lifestyle?

(If you can’t see the podcast player click here to listen!)

VOCABULARY LIST

Cognitive –  of, relating to, being, or involving conscious intellectual activity (such as thinking, reasoning, or remembering)

Researchers are debating whether heading balls can dent the cognitive skills of young soccer players for life.

Longevity – a long duration of individual life, remaining popular for a long time

For longevity in car design, you really need to keep it simple.

Functionality – the quality of being useful, practical, and right for the purpose for which something was made:

In civil engineering, a major component of functionality is safety.

Multitask – to do more than one thing at a time:

There’s a stereotype that women tend to multitask better than men do.

Counter-intuitive – Something that is counter-intuitive does not happen in the way you would expect it to:

Steering a sailboat is counter-intuitive – you push the tiller the opposite way to the way you want to go.

Alzheimer’s – a disease of the brain that mainly affects old people and results in the gradual loss of memory, speech, movement, and the ability to think clearly:

Dementia- a medical condition that affects especially old people, causing the memory and other mental abilities to gradually become worse, and leading to confused behaviour:

The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. 

If you are listening to this podcast, it is almost certain that you are trying to improve or keep up your English level. But why learn English? Or for the matter, why learn any foreign language? Maybe it is to help with your career goals, for education, to make traveling easier, or simply because you enjoy English? However, language learning also provides a number of major cognitive benefits that can help improve the performance, health, and longevity of your brain. While it has long been known that bilingual and multilingual children benefit from their language knowledge, adult learners also experience positive consequences.

For instance, studies have shown that language learners in general perform better on standardised exams than monolingual students. In particular, language learning seems to help mathematics, reading, and vocabulary scores. Possibly, this is due to the problem solving skills that studying English helps to develop. Recognising vocabulary, understanding meaning, and being able to correctly use a foreign language challenges your brain to work in new ways. Of course, other activities can help improve your brains functionality. Solving brainteasers like crosswords or sudoku, reading, and learning new skills can all have positive effects. However, language learning involves many different parts of the brain and helps to develop connections between different areas. 

In fact, learning a language can improve overall memory and your ability to multitask. If you speak more than one language everyday, of course you become skilled at switching between different vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation structures. Remembering rules and words is like exercise for the brain: the more you do this exercise the stronger your brain will become! Multilingual people practice recalling things everyday, and often use different languages at the same time. So it is natural for them to have strong memories and multitasking ability!

Moreover, studying a foreign language will help you improve your own native language! I know this might seem counterintuitive to some people – all the new words and rules in your must be confusing, right? But it can actually help you focus on, and understand better, grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structure! For example, ever since i began studying foreign languages, my knowledge of English has definitely improved. I am more aware of how language can be used, changed, and adapted, and i think i’m a much better communicator and writer because of it!

Finally, learning a language can have real health benefits. Several studies have shown that it can prevent or delay diseases like Alzheimers and dementia. For example, the average ag of dementia for monolingual people is 71.4 years old, compared to 75.5 for those who speak 2 or more languages.

Today’s final thought

If there are so many benefits to studying ENglish, not simply in terms on employment and qualifications, but also in health and well being, should language learning be recommended as part of a healthy lifestyle? We are already encouraged to exercise regularly, eat healthily, and ensure we rest for sufficient time. Surely the improvements to brain functionality, cognitive ability, and memory would justify learning a languages inclusion. Many parts of the world are beginning to struggle with the impact of aging populations. As we get older, cognitive decline, in other words, the slowing down of our brains is a reality. Thousands of people around the world are diagnosed with diseases such as dementia every year, and require expensive treatment and care for the remainder of their lives. Furthermore, less serious problems with brain functionality, ranging from memory loss to ‘brain fog’, affect a large proportion of elderly people. Could promoting language learning and encouraging bilingual populations help to improve the quality of life for future generations? Or could investing in learning resources even save money in the long term by potentially reducing future care costs? Memory, multitasking, and other cognitive abilities are incredibly important in allowing elderly people to remain independent for longer. 

What do you think? 

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