When it comes to language learning, some of our school memories may have put us off the idea altogether. At the time it was a compulsory and reluctant undertaking, today it’s a slightly fond, and often comedic memory.
The big question is what have we been left with by the time we reach adulthood? For instance, how do you rate your skills from one to ten when you disembark from the Eurostar? Is it time your French, Spanish, German – or Mandarin, was on the receiving end of a little TLC?
In London today, more and more businesses are offering employees the opportunity to develop personal as well as professional skills – and language learning is on the menu. Learning a language with your colleagues encourages sociability, which in turn improves productivity. Language learning as an adult, out of the educational pressure cooker can also be a lot of fun.
The science bit
At first glance, the benefits of learning a language can seem obvious, but in fact the waters run deep. Latest neuro-linguistic research suggests that developing a language can offer subtle and yet significant benefits to your problem solving, cognitive processes and sense of self-worth, turning you into a more rounded and confident individual.
A recent Swedish study showed that learning a different language vastly improves communication skills in your native tongue – thus helping with presentations, public speaking and teamworking skills. As well as your new-found eloquence, chances are you’ll get better at your job.
The physical process of learning linguistic rules involves learning and applying new information, a process which acts as a ‘workout’ for your brain – in fact MRI scan technology has found that learning a language can quantifiably increase the size of your brain. Finally, add to the mix that addressing an entirely different set of questions to the ones you usually confront at work offers a valuable ‘change of mental scene’, providing you with new energy for your usual tasks.
Look at life with new eyes
Ultimately, the real benefits of learning a language at work are not about ‘productivity’ or ‘functionality’. If the words we have at our disposal structure the way we think about the world, then learning a new language offers us a different lens through which to make sense of our environment. Learning a new language involves constantly confronting ambiguities. Rather than seeing these as ‘problems’ to be solved, the process of learning encourages us to accept and embrace this element of reality. Countless studies have shown that poly-lingual individuals are more willing to speak of living happier, richer lives.
So why consider taking an hour or two out of your usual working week? For all the reasons outlined here – and more! Learning a new language can help us reframe the thoughts and memories we hold, helping us look at life positively – and with new eyes.