Mindfulness Diaries: learning a new language


Nidhi Thomas

In this weekly column, guest contributer Nidhi Thomas writes about bringing mindfulness into everyday life.

Nidhi Thomas, Guest Contributor

Recently, I came across a video that talked about the benefits of a bilingual brain. One of the things that really stood out to me about this video, was that they said learning a second language can have an effect on the structure of your brain. The video talked about how knowing more than one language can make your brain more complex and actively engaged. They said that this is because the brains of people who are bilingual or multilingual are multifaceted, and more rich. So, this video really inspired me to learn more languages, and really commit to the learning process as well. But it made me wonder, how do I actually do that? 

Unlike solving a math problem or memorizing the periodic table, learning a language takes more effort than just being taught something and going with the flow. Many of us learn a new language at school, and that’s great; It’s an amazing opportunity. However, unfortunately, what they teach us in school isn’t enough. In order to really learn a language, you need to fully immerse yourself in it. Visit a country where they speak it, and learn about their culture. Also, speak the language regularly- maybe with a friend who’s learning it too. If you do those things, you will not only be more successful in learning the language, but also enrich your learning experience. 

When we learn a language as babies, we don’t memorize things. We pay attention to the people around us. We notice what they say, how they say it. We notice how they react to things said by other people- we interact with our environment. And overtime, we’re able to mimic the people around us. You can memorize Newton’s laws of physics, but you can’t memorize a language. In order to really learn a language, you have to pretend you’re a baby. Fully involve yourself in the world of the language you’re learning, and you’ll be on the path to success.  

Now there’s only one problem. What if you don’t have access to this “wonderful language rich world?” Well, that’s one issue I came across myself. I’ve been learning Spanish for a few years now, and I’ve wanted to fully commit to it and really learn it well for a while now, but didn’t have the resources to do that. 

The first thing that came to my mind was downloading Duolingo, since I had many friends who were becoming proficient in languages just from the app itself. So I downloaded the app, and it definitely helped me improve. It gave me practice for listening to native speakers talk, helped me better understand Spanish grammar, etc. However, I noticed that solely Duolingo wasn’t enough, and it was then that I thought of a new way I could enrich my language learning experience. TV shows and movies. I started watching a few of my favorite shows in Spanish, just to see if I would pick anything up, and I found that it was very helpful. It made me realize that there are so many other ways you can immerse yourself in a language without actually constantly being in an environment with speakers of it. 

So, if you’re interested in becoming more proficient at a language, try out some of these things. I think you’ll find that following these tips will make language learning an even more rewarding experience.