Did you know that, at one time not so long ago, it was thought that speaking more than one language was detrimental to a person’s mental health and intellectual capacity?
Daft as it sounds, at the turn of the 20th century, school children were discouraged from learning any tongue besides the English language.
Since then, numerous studies have concluded that learning a second language in no way harms verbal development or lowers a person’s IQ.
Quite the contrary! They uncovered so many ways that bilingualism boosts mental performance.
Let us shine a light on some of them, and the many ways learning French will benefit you!
Learning French gives a tremendous boost to cognitive function Source: Pixabay Credit: Artsy_Bee
Before we drill down to all of the good that speaking the French language can bring you, let us talk about advantages you can derive from language learning in general.
Perhaps the greatest positive that can come from learning a new language is mental agility.
Mental agility is defined as a quickness of mind; being able to assimilate data – words, numbers and facts, and make use of them as needed.
Just like your physical self, your mind needs exercise to stay fit. So, if all you do is work, watch telly and hang out with friends, your brain may be starving for stimulation.
Intellectual pastimes, such as sudoku and crossword puzzles, do little to arouse new brain activity.
They are considered more of a memory challenge because you are not actually learning anything.
Psychiatrist Norman Doige advocates, among other activities, that learning a new language is one of the best ways to keep your mind sharp.
You are alive and thriving in your mind but, somehow, what you know is not translating into what you can do. What a horrifying scenario!
Experts all agree that continuous learning is one of the best ways to stave off age-related mental decline.
More importantly, the general consensus is that, while other intellectual functions may wane over time, vocabulary and the power of speech are the least affected by aging.
That signifies that you are not likely to lose any word power as time goes on.
One function that does suffer as we age is the ability to multitask.
Coincidentally, studies have proven that people who have attended language courses, and can speak the language they learned with any degree of fluency, are better multitaskers.
Isn’t warding off dementia a great reason to sign up for language classes?
Causality for this alarming fact is as yet unknown. One theory posits that our minds go on autopilot around that stage in life, and there is some merit to the idea.
Just finishing our university studies, perhaps already settling into our career… even our social status – getting married or otherwise starting a serious relationship does little to keep our grey matter active.
Isn’t it amazing how the ability to speak another language can forestall all of that?
In fact, partaking of language instruction can:
Claiming language as your mental playground will make vocabulary categorisation your personal jungle gym.
As you make flashcards to study common words, while still a beginner in your language learning adventure, you can colour-code them according to noun, pronoun, verb, adjective and adverb.
Later, as your language skills expand, you can create word families: vocabulary pertaining to people, to animals, to objects, to clothing, and so on.
Grouping and labeling new words helps build relational bridges between what you already know and the new concepts you are studying; a skill that you can use in other aspects of your daily life.
How can French courses magnify those benefits?
This word family represents digital communication. Can you say these words in French? Source: Pixabay Credit: Kevin King
Are you mad for discovering new vistas?
If so, then you probably know that English alone can give you access to even the most remote parts of the world.
However, French is the only other language besides English that is spoken on five of the seven continents.
So, while you may get by to some degree with English, on your skiing trip in Switzerland, a country whose official language is French, you would do much better if you could communicate in their native language.
Especially if you wanted to get off the beaten path.
In these times of people who value experiences over possessions, finding ways outside of mainstream cultural encounters is made easier by personally having more to offer.
Would cycling through Cambodia to see Angkor Wat with your own eyes qualify as an extraordinary experience?
If so, you’d better pack light and bring your French speaking skills, as English will not necessarily be understood by the locals.
Some people go to French speaking countries to help students learn how to speak English, or to take jobs in telecommunications or engineering.
Imagine how much more effective your teaching could be, or all of Morocco – as an example, that you could explore if you spoke French?
Some people are perfectly happy taking guided tours of different countries, seeing the highlights and buying souvenirs.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, as a holiday experience. But there could be so much more to holiday-making!
Maybe you have been to Paris, or Lyon, or anywhere in the south of France. If so, you surely know the value chirping bonjour when you step into a shop, and merci once your transaction is completed.
Perhaps you have gone beyond French greetings, and smack into phrases and expressions. Good for you!
Language is the roadmap to a culture – Rita Mae Brown
If your travels are meant to broaden your cultural horizons, you could not hope for a better second language than French.
There are no fewer than 29 countries whose citizens speak French, and an additional eight territories with a francophone population.
Speaking French while visiting any of those regions will surely give you entry to the mysteries of their rituals, beliefs and daily life – those cultural aspects generally kept hidden from avid tourists.
If you have been circling around the idea of language acquisition, wondering which one would yield the most, you could hardly go wrong with studying French.
You may think of mastering French as a gateway to learning other romance languages Source: Pixabay Credit: Fietzfotos
Unlike English, French is a romance language, meaning it has the same grammatical constructs as Italian, Spanish, Romanian and Portuguese.
Many French words are close in pronunciation to those other tongues, too.
However, our mother tongue contains a wealth of French words and phrases; in fact, nearly a third of our vocabulary consists of words that originated in France!
If you were to learn French, no doubt you would be surprised to find that many English words that end in -ion, such as attention, communication and television are actually French, with no translation needed!
For that reason, linguists all aver that French is perhaps the best choice of a second language for native English speakers to learn, and it can serve as a gateway to learning the other romance languages.
Once you can speak French fluently, why not learn Spanish or Italian?
Let’s say you have taken French courses in secondary school, and your language learning was reinforced by a French tutor on the weekends. The question to pose is: what are you learning it for?
Most students select French as their preferred language on the A Levels in order to attend university abroad.
For a good reason! The Shanghai Index ranks unis in French speaking countries second only to those in nations whose primary language is English!
If you have gone beyond basic French in your desire to pursue advanced studies, we can think of no better way to immerse yourself in an all around learning experience than studying abroad!
Pundits all agree that immersion is the very best way to absorb French grammar and French vocabulary.
So, if you are a foodie, being bilingual will give you access to study haute cuisine at the Sorbonne, a world-renown institute where you can also major in anything from photography to philosophy!
And think of how being fluent in French will increase your marketability!
Come time to find work, your proficiency in the French language may get you hired faster, and put a few extra pounds in your pay envelope.
Studies show that employees who can speak different languages tend to be more sought after, and earn more.
Earning more is a fine point to wrap up the subject of why you should engage in French learning!
Aren’t you eager for French lessons now?