What are the Benefits of Learning a Second Language after 60?
One of the biggest myths about women over 60 is that we live in a “shrinking world” and we’re not interested in learning new things. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Most of the women over 60 that I know are feeling more adventurous than ever before. Women of my generation are starting second act careers, creating side businesses to make extra money in retirement, taking classes, traveling the world and pursuing all sorts of interesting learning experiences.
One of the best ways to expand your mind and enjoy new travel experiences after age 60, which I have done in my own life, is to learn a second language.
Many people think that learning languages is only for kids – and while it’s true that kids can often learn languages faster than adults, just because of the differences in our brain development and receptivity to language learning at different stages of life, women over 60 often have some unique advantages in studying and learning a second language that we might not have had during our younger days.
For example, women over 60 often have more free time than we did when we were younger. We (hopefully) have enough disposable income to pay for language lessons. And there are many great technologies available today to learn languages online – one of the best-rated language programs is Rosetta Stone.
Here are a few of the reasons why more women over 60 should learn a second language:
Getting More from Your Travel Adventures
One of the biggest benefits of learning a foreign language is that it gives you another level of confidence and ability to travel to other countries. If you love to visit Spain, speaking Spanish can expand your horizons and help you get more out of your visit. If you would love to tour the Italian countryside in Tuscany, speaking Italian can help you enjoy the experience more fully.
Even though more people around the world speak English than ever before, even in very popular tourist destinations like France it helps to be able to communicate (even a little bit) in the native language of the local place where you are visiting. You might find that you get better restaurant service and a level of appreciation and warmth when people see that you are making an honest effort to speak their language.
Keeping your Mind Sharp
In addition to playing “brain games” to exercise your mind, learning a foreign language is a good way to keep your mind sharp – not just to reduce your risk of dementia, but also to keep reminding yourself of what it is possible to achieve with you brain and your hard work.
Learning a language can be a rejuvenating and energizing activity. Especially if you’ve reached a point in your career where you feel stagnant or underutilized at work, or if you have some free time on your hands with your grown children out of the house, learning a language and committing to a course of study can give you a pleasurable and fulfilling new “project” in life.
Enhanced Cultural Appreciation
Learning a second language gives you a newfound appreciation for the books and movies and literature of that other country. For example, after I learned Russian, I immediately gained a much greater understanding of Russia’s tremendous literary heritage, with great authors like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.
Watching foreign films (even with subtitles in your native language) is much more fun and rewarding when you have some level of knowledge of the foreign language.
Even reading foreign novels translated into English has another level of enjoyment when you speak some of the original language – sometimes you can see little turns of phrase or cultural expressions that have been translated to English, but that you recognize the form and structure from the foreign language.
Finding New Reasons to Enjoy Exotic Foods
Another underrated benefit of learning a foreign language is the food! If you love the culinary creations of another country, consider learning the language. You will have a whole new vocabulary to appreciate the ingredients, flavors, textures and kitchen traditions of the other country. You might even sign up for a cooking class in Spain or Italy or France, and learn how to cook your favorite dishes in the original language.
Learning a language is time well spent, especially if you love to travel or host international visitors. For women over 60, learning a language is an ideal way to be more curious and engaged with the world than ever before.
Do you speak any other languages? How did you learn? Please join the conversation.
Watch this entertaining interview with Dr. Medina for more unexpected tips on how to keep your brain healthy as you age.