Researchers agree that it is never too late to learn a new language! Many older adults are learning new languages to improve cognition and to keep the brain healthy in later life.
Keep The Brain Healthy
Experts in senior health advise that learning a new language helps to keep cognition healthy for longer and provides excellent regular exercise for the brain.
Studies have shown that having a second language delays the age at which dementia can onset. A study of 648 Alzheimer’s patients found that those who were bilingual developed dementia four to five years later, compared those who only spoke one language.
Learning as little as one new word everyday keeps the brain efficient and flexible. This transfers over to other areas in life, improving memory, attention to detail and problem solving abilities. Other studies have found that switching between languages activates the part of the brain responsible for executive functioning, decision making and task completion.
Connect With The Culture
Learning a language is a great way to connect with the heart of a culture. This is a large part of the reason we see a trend in seniors taking up new languages.
Many people choose to reconnect with their roots in later life by picking up the native language of their parents or grandparents.
Other people find retired life offers more free time to explore their interests and passions. Reading their favourite literature in the original language can be really rewarding, whether it’s Tolstoy in Russian or Dante in the original Italian.
People who are retired often find more time to travel to foreign countries. Learning the language before they go gives a deeper understanding of the culture and allows for a much richer travel experience.
New Language Learning Options
The advancement of technology makes learning a new language even more accessible to everyone. Learning can be really social too: after all, language is about human communication and forming meaningful connections with others.
Duolingo and Podcasts
Free to use apps such as Duolingo, are becoming more and more popular. They’re a really useful tool to build up vocabulary and practice pronunciation with fun interactive games and daily lessons. They can be social too, with the option to link in with your friends online through the app.
Podcasts to learn a language are another option on the rise in popularity. As the learning is audio-based, podcasts help with pronunciation which is often the hardest part of a language to master. Podcasts such as Say Something in Welsh also come with real online classes, offering the opportunity to meet other learners online.
Classes are still a really popular way to learn a language, with a diverse range available. There are options out there to suit every schedule and ability level, whether it’s a beginners night class at a local high school, or an intensive immersive course to gain fluency.
People who take up a course also find they have the benefit of socialising and connecting with other learners who they can practise talking with. Older adults joining these classes helps to combat the growing concern around loneliness and isolation in the UK’s ageing population.
Watching Films and Television
A fun learning option people are using is to watch their favourite movies and television shows in a foreign language. Netflix and other streaming services offer the option to have foreign subtitles to read along with the show. Alternatively many shows have versions available with foreign dubbing in multiple languages.
However you choose to learn, you’ll be sure to gain the long-term benefits a new language offers!