Learning to speak a foreign language provides numerous benefits--not the least of which is the way it exercises the brain!
Learning new languages opens up a whole world of history, food, music, books, films--and friendships--that was closed to us. It helps us dive below the surface and begin to really understand how other cultures feel and think--which immeasurably expands and deepens our understanding of ourselves and our own culture.
Learning another language is also a wonderful exercise for the brain. It lights up neural areas that govern sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste, movement, emotions, memory, mental imagery, and more.
One of the most remarkable benefits of learning a foreign language is that it helps us understand our OWN language better!
Language classes for adults often introduce grammatical terms to help students understand the target language's basic structure. One benefit of this is that it often teaches us about the structure of our own language--perhaps for the first time. (So when someone tells you that the subject in the sentence you just wrote does not agree with the verb, you will know what that means and be able to correct it!)
Although it IS much easier for young children to learn a second or third language with native speaking accent and fluency, people of any age can acquire the ability to communicate successfully in a new language.
So where do you begin?
All community colleges and universities offer training in foreign languages. Participating in a structured classroom with others can be very helpful because it gives you ample opportunity for practice and encourages regular study.
If you are 65 or over, the colleges in your city may offer special programs. For example, Portland State University in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, allows seniors to audit any course they want for free! For more information about this program, go to:Portland State University's Institute on Aging
For ideas on how to learn Spanish while having fun, how to find the courses best suited to your unique learning style, and how to teach your children Spanish, check out:Learn Spanish with Ease
If you have begun to study a language, you will need to practice it as often as possible. Organizations in many communities offer opportunities to practice speaking a particular language. Examples include Alliance Francaise (French) and the Goethe Institute (German).
Look for foreign films being shown in your city (in the original language with subtitles) and watch them twice--the first time reading the subtitles and the second time listening just to the language.
Also look for special opportunities to practice a language in your city. For example, Portland has a great travel cafe that offers live international music, free viewings of international films, and foreign conversation nights that focus on different languages. For more information, go to:Cosstello's Travel Caffe
And the best option of all, of course, is to study a language in the country itself! Today there are numerous opportunities to travel, work and study overseas for people of all ages. A great place to start exploring the possibilities is to go to: