HOW LEARNING A NEW LANGUAGE IN SELF-ISOLATION MAY HELP YOU COPE
Looking for something to do in self-isolation? Bored of senselessly browsing the Internet? Struggling to cope with the new normal?
Anouche Karaman of the Swiss Language Academy shares some of the plusses of learning a new language and why it could be particularly helpful to us now.
Also read the article: Everything you need to know about the FIDE exam by Anouche Karaman here.
BOOSTING CREATIVITY AND TOLERANCE…
We know that there are many advantages to learning a foreign language. Research shows, for example, that older people who speak several languages are less likely to develop symptoms of dementia. The bilingual brain is also less distracted, and learning foreign languages boosts creativity. What’s more, once a first foreign language has been learned, it is less difficult to learn others.
Learning a language also improves tolerance, says Anouche.
It opens our eyes to other ways of doing things, what we call “cultural competence”.
If ever there was a need for tolerance of unfamiliar situations and creativity – then surely that is now during lockdown!
UNDERSTANDING OTHERS BETTER
Cultural competence is so important in our increasingly globalised world. But how does language learning help? The answer lies in the different types of intelligence. Research on intelligence describes two types of intelligence and how they relate to language learning in adults. What he calls “practical intelligence” helps individuals understand information in their environment, including social signs – like being more streetwise.
Learning a language also means learning about different cultures. Students pick up cultural elements associated with the language during class, but also through immersion.
When students learn a language they develop new ways of understanding a culture by learning about cultural stereotypes. With the help of a teacher, students can practice critical thinking skills about stereotypes associated with different cultures, whether it is about food, appearance, or ways of talking.
New ways of working and social interaction make it even more important for us to understand people who are different and cope differently with the situation from us.
LEARNING TO COPE WITH THE UNKNOWN
The other way in which language learning improves tolerance is what is called “ambiguity tolerance”. A person with high ambiguity tolerance finds unusual situations more exciting than frightening. Language learning is believed to improve ambiguity tolerance, especially when the person speaks more than one foreign language.
Any conversation in a foreign language involves unknown words. If someone constantly interrupts a conversation to say, “Wait, I don’t know that word. Let me look it up in the dictionary,” it would be difficult to have a discussion. People with a high tolerance for ambiguity don’t mind continuing the conversation even though they may not understand every word.
This also helps students to limit their anxiety in social situations and makes it easier for them to learn more languages in the future. People with a high level of tolerance for ambiguity are believed to be more entrepreneurial; more optimistic and more inclined towards innovation and risk-taking.
Again, there can hardly be a more relevant skill to develop at the moment than learning to cope with the unknown!