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When Failing Helps? Oui, Mon Ami
July 24, 2014 - By: - In: In the News / Awards, Language - Comments Off on When Failing Helps? Oui, Mon Ami

So, how are your foreign-language skills? Can you talk as well as a three year old? For adult learners, the problem is that three year olds know more than you might think.

The benefits of learning a foreign language are widely touted. For people of all ages, you’ll hear that: “By learning a foreign language, you can communicate with other people around the world.” For people who are getting older though, you’ll probably hear a different tune: “By learning a foreign language, you can help keep your brain sharp.” With this is mind, I read a recent New York Times editorial with amusement.

The writer poked fun at his French skills, which despite his best efforts were inferior to that of a three year old’s. However, I admit I found myself rather uncomfortable when he said that: “Advertising claims notwithstanding, few adults who tackle a foreign language achieve anything resembling proficiency.”

The 57-year-old author went on to recount his personal experience, which very much makes a case for the thought that learning foreign languages keeps your brain sharp. He began to worry about his memory and so took a cognitive assessment; unfortunately, his results were quite dismal. That didn’t deter him from his decision to start learning French though. He poured his efforts into learning the language of love, but after a year, he had little to show for it. His French skills were just not that great. However, he retook the cognitive assessment and, to his surprise, found an almost miraculous improvement in his scores. His cognitive abilities seem to have simply rejuvenated! So now he plans to take on Italian.

I think he has the right idea. Spending your free time learning a new language is a great hobby that can potentially bring important health benefits. I guess that means I should probably get back to learning Czech now, huh?

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