Why Seniors Should Learn a Second Language

Why Should Seniors Learn a Second Language?

You’ve always wanted to learn a new language, but you’ve never been able to find the time to balance family responsibilities, house management, and your career. Maybe retirement is bringing you new travel opportunities, and you want to be better equipped to see the world. For these reasons and many more, retirement is a great time to learn a new language and bilingualism boasts significant health benefits for people of all ages – especially seniors looking to boost brain health and stave off cognitive decline.

Learn more about the benefits of learning a new language in your senior years and the tools today’s seniors are using to become more proficient in other languages faster.

5 Benefits to Learning a Second Language

1. Learning a second language has been shown to decrease the risk of developing dementia

Several studies have concluded, with consistent results, that being bilingual can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s by as many as four years. One study that evaluated the onset of Alzheimer’s in 450 participants concluded, “What we’ve been able to show is that in these patients…all of whom have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and are all at the same level of impairment, the bilinguals on average are four to five years old – which means they’ve been able to cope with the disease.”

2. Knowing another language can make international travel less stressful

Retirement often takes us on travels that we never had the time for while balancing family responsibilities, household chores, and a career. Now that retirement is here, you have a lot more free time and have to decide how to spend that time. Many seniors use this time to travel and learning a second language can certainly help you feel more comfortable abroad. Knowing more than the basics, you will be able to get directions, negotiate market prices, and generally feel safer while experiencing the culture more thoroughly.

3.  Learning a new language can make you smarter

Studies have shown that learning a foreign language can improve your brain’s functionality. The language learning process challenges the brain to recognize words, negotiate meaning, and communicate in an entirely different language system. That skill can translate into other problem-solving areas as studies have shown that people who are bilingual scoring higher on standardized test scores.

4. Learning a new language improves decision-making skills

A study from the University of Chicago found that people who speak more than one language are more likely to make more rational decisions. The study suggests that people who are bilingual are more confident in making a decision after thinking it over in their second language and seeing if initial conclusions made in the first language stand. The study, published in Psychological Science concluded that, “Even when people fully comprehend the meaning of taboo words, reprimands, expressions of love, and advertising slogans, they react to them less emotionally in a foreign language. This reduction in emotional response might … allow people to rely more on analytic processes when they make decisions.”

5. Learning a new language puts you outside of your comfort zone

If not now, when? Taking the time in retirement to invest in another language and culture will be an experience that takes you outside of your comfort zone and on an adventure. Maybe your lessons will take you abroad where you will be able to experience the culture and art in its original language. Maybe you will develop international friendships where you can truly communicate in another language. Wherever language lessons take you, you will find it challenging, exciting, and develop confidence in yourself and your ability to thrive outside of your own comfort zone.

5 Language Learning Apps for Seniors

Learning a new language can sound intimidating at any age – which is why there is an abundance of tools available to help you along the way. These 5 language learning tools are five of the most popular on the market today.

1. Duolingo

Duolingo is a free app available on the web, Android, and iOS. The user chooses the language he or she wants to learn and then goes through daily lessons identifying key phrases and words. The app allows users to set reminders for each day and also has several time options, starting at 5 minutes per day. Duolingo checks the users progress, creating a customized program that addresses the user’s own problem areas.

2. Anki

Anki is a free app that utilizes digital flashcards to help users learn a new language. Anki, Japanese for ‘memorizing’ has been time-tested and is great for learning new languages, allowing the user to even set up custom card sets. Additionally, there are shared decks available in the app so that users can download and start memorizing immediately.

3. Memrise

Memrise is a language learning program that goes beyond basic vocabulary and into the culture, science, and history. Still primarily a memorization and flashcard style learning tool, it is designed to help the user have fun while learning the language, making it more of a game and awarding the user points while competing against other users. Memrise is free and available on the web and as an iOS and Android app.

4. Hellolingo

Hellolingo is a comprehensive language learning community that utilizes the language skills of native speakers. Most of its content is free, and the program is entirely web-based featuring live classes, conversations with native speakers, videos, and more. The program even offers private tutoring.

5. Language Learning by Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone is an online language learning program used by several Leisure Care communities. Featuring speech recognition technology and language tutors, Rosetta Stone fully equips users to travel abroad feeling confident in their language skills. Echoing how children learn their first language, Rosetta Stone introduces words at a time before putting them together in full sentences and allows users to schedule private lessons, communicate with native speakers and play games as part of the learning program.

What language programs have you used to learn another language? How has learning another language improved your life? Share your personal experiences with us in the comments below. 

About the author

Alissa has been working in marketing and the senior living industry for over 7 years. She graduated from the University of Illinois with a B.S. in advertising and has worked all over the world as a freelance communications strategist and writer. Currently living in Okinawa, Japan, Alissa loves to travel, read, cook, and spend time with her two children and golden retriever.

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