5 ways learning a language can improve your mental health

Mental Health

Sunday 10th October marked World Mental Health Day. The overall objective of this annual event is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilise efforts in support of mental health (World Health Organisation). Thankfully, mental health awareness is becoming more of a priority for individuals, schools and businesses in the 21st century, while campaigns, wellbeing activities and self-help resources have grown exponentially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. At Dragons Teaching, our aim is to teach groups and individuals – children and adults alike – new languages. So how can learning a new language improve your mental health and wellbeing?

1. Engage in positive, mindful distraction

Struggling with your mental health can feel overwhelming and all-encompassing. Winston Churchill aptly named his depression the ‘Black Dog‘: a constant companion that demanded all of his time, attention and energy. While it can feel difficult to complete even the smallest tasks when suffering from poor mental health, learning a language can actually be a positive, mindful distraction. Tasking your brain with understanding foreign words does not leave much room for other thoughts; after all, switching between your native language and the language you’re learning is the ultimate workout for your brain! The principle of mindfulness is based on the basic ability to be fully present in the ‘now’ – and learning a new language requires plenty of focus, ensuring that you are entirely present in the task at hand.

2. Open doors to new communities

Language is at the heart of culture. It’s how communities converse, interact and work together, so learning a new language is a great step in breaking barriers between different cultures and helping you see the world in a new light. Mental health – particularly depression – can be extremely isolating, but as humans, we’re inherently social creatures. Having the ability to speak another language can open doors to making connections in other communities and, ultimately, may help you forge new friendships that can improve the variety of your life.

3. Gain personal achievement

Accomplishing a new skill, whether it’s riding a bike, mastering a dish or learning Urdu, will undeniably bring a sense of personal achievement and boost your self-confidence. Learning a new language does not have an ‘end point’; for non-native speakers, there are always more words to learn, more conversations to have and more unique idioms and expressions to understand in order to reach full fluency. Rather than this being seen as overwhelming, individuals embarking on learning a new language can see this as a great opportunity to achieve small, manageable goals. Why not start with learning five new words a day?

4. Reduce the risk of brain disease

Many studies have shown that learning a new language significantly increases your cognitive ability, with evidence suggesting that learning a language can prevent, or at least delay, brain disease such as dementia. According to a study conducted on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Society, people who speak more than one language develop symptoms of dementia on average five years later than those who only speak their mother tongue. Brain scans of the individuals involved showed that bilinguals had stronger connections between certain areas of their brain, compared to monolinguals. The conclusion was that their brains were better prepared to cope with damage before they began to show outward signs of the disease.

5. Have fun!

Learning a new language doesn’t have to be an accomplishable goal. Just like reading a book, watching a TV show or completing a puzzle, it can be an enjoyable experience in its own right with no ‘tick box’ of success necessary at the end. At Dragons Teaching, we are firm believers that learning a language should be fun – that’s why we’ve created our engaging, interactive e-learning platform ‘Connect’ to keep pupils engaged and ensure constant enjoyment. Take a look here.

Beth Gore, Marketing & Communications Manager

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