When my mom fell ill with a brain tumour, I had to let go of the cleaning business I had recently set up to look after her. When things got worse, we decided to move her into a local care home for dementia patients. I ended up being offered the role of activities coordinator there and stayed on after the death of my mom.
This was a completely different job for me and I learned a lot about dementia and how it works. I'm obviously not an expert but with the research I did about my mom's glioblastoma and the training on dementia, I started to understand the brain a bit better and became more curious as to how it works.
When you start looking at language and the brain, you will find that learning a foreign language helps increase connectivity. Recent research shows that learning a foreign language can even delay the symptoms of dementia. Some studies have shown that learning a new language in later years shows cognitive benefits beyond languages, such as working memory.
Many older people will say 'I'm too old, my memory is no good. I can't learn a foreign language.' Well, studies show that you can. And not only can you learn a foreign language but it will also help improve your long & short-term memory functions. Oh, and it helps with flexible and creative thinking.
A recurring conversation I have when I'm out and about with the grandkids or networking online goes something like this:
Random middle-aged person: So, what do you do?
Me: I have an online English and foreign language school.
Random middle-aged person: Oh that's interesting, so do you speak a language yourself?
Me: Yeah, I'm pretty fluent in Italian and I have basic French and Spanish knowledge, and English of course. You?
Random middle-aged person: Oh gosh no. I'm too old for that now and my memory is terrible. I would never be able to remember all those new words!
Me: (smiles & thinks about whether to give the random middle-aged person a long list of benefits and sound like I'm trying to convince them or just leave it!)
Me: Well, gotta go, have a lovely day
I don't need to or want to convince anyone to work with us. If you don't think you can learn a language then you probably won't. If you think you can however then you probably will.
I'm just here waving my arms and shouting "Get your English and Foreign Language Courses Here" so that the people at the back, who realise the benefits and want to learn a language, know that I'm here.
But, just in case you didn't know the advantages of learning a language here is a little list:
Enhanced problem solving
Improved verbal and spatial abilities
Enhanced creative thinking capacity
Strengthen decision making
Change the structure of your brain
Go to source
Increase cultural awareness
Better understanding of one’s mother tongue
As we get older, we tend to accumulate worries, stress and bad habits which can stagnate our brain. Through my own experience of domestic abuse and the loss of my mother, I found that immersing myself into learning new things helped me take my mind off its usual thought. I could literally feel my brain firing and wiring new pathways.
These last couple of years I have started learning more and more Spanish and my dream of living in a Spanish speaking country is getting closer. I have had the problem-solving skills to navigate becoming homeless with a family and still managing a business. I have made some absolutely fabulous connections, grown my business and gone from hidden away to being on almost every social media platform. I have travelled to Spain and Tenerife with the children while being without a permanent home. I have even had the honour of collaborating on the book by Rie Pearson www.riepearson.com
‘Be Kind. No Excuses’ which is about abuse prevention. Now, I’m not saying all of this happened because I can speak Italian, that would be quite a big statement to make. But, imagine if I hadn’t gone travelling when I was younger. Imagine if I hadn’t learnt Italian and hadn’t gained the perspective of the student. I might then not have taught English for decades and had the experience to establish my own online foreign language hub.
As for the memory, I’m not so sure. Imagine what it would be like if I wasn’t learning a language!
So, if you want to have a go at one of the most rewarding aspects of our human experience and connect with others, feed your brain and boost your confidence while learning a foreign language and having fun, let me know.