Language Show Live: Added Value of Multilingualism19-Dec-2012
Speaking in Tongues
The last but not least session I attended at the Language Show Live last November was a talk by Itesh Sachev. The aim of the session was to discover the myths about multilingualism and find out how speaking a number of languages affects our brains and benefits our health. However, the thing that really caught my attention when reading the programme was why learning a new language later in life can be easier! We’ll start with having a look at the benefits of multilingualism. We all know a few reasons why learning languages is good. We can easily say that multilingualism supports spatial skills such as reasoning, but also increases creativity. Additionally, knowing more than one language helps to protect the brain from mental decline as well as benefit cultural and social aspects of our lives. Knowing languages definitely helps with traveling and as a result building on people’s trust and showing respect for each other’s identity. One of the most important things about multilingual people is the fact that they see the world from a wider perspective and engage with it in many more ways.
The Centre for Languages Linguistics & Area Studies provides us with a much more detailed list in a report which describes new research carried out by the Subject Centre and identifies more than 700 reasons for studying languages. I think that this research would be especially interesting to those encouraging students to study languages. The 700 rationales for language learning discovered, as a result of the research, cover themes such as: communication, employability, equal opportunities, globalisation, intercultural competence, mobility and personal and social development of the individual. One of my personal favourite quotes from the report is: “If you are travelling around the world, speaking the language is better than shouting”. If you want to read the report and find more detailed information on benefits of multilingualism you can download it here. The 700 reasons for studying languages have been grouped into 70 different key areas in which languages make a difference, each area identified by a keyword and you can find it here: www.llas.ac.uk/700reasons
However, the big question to answer for me was on why learning a new language later in life can be easier and in his talk, Itesh Sachev gave very logical reasons of age having a good influence on the languages learning.
It seems that one of the reasons for children to acquire languages quicker is simply the amount of time they have to devote to learn a new language. They tend to spend more time on learning as they have more of it compared with an adult who has a rather busy professional and personal life. As children appear to be more tolerant and as a result faster at accepting differences while learning a new language, adults seem to have got a big advantage as they’re able to build on a wide range of skills they have acquired in their lives so far and apply them when they decide to study a language. It definitely contributes to being better at classifying and forming concepts, which play a crucial part in progressing while studying a language.
Overall it looks like there is a big hope for us adult language learners and a few things we can take to our adult students to motivate them to continue studying languages.
Please see below for more articles in the ‘Language Show Live’ series: