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Language Learning

Do you speak French? Arabic? Cree? There are over 200 languages spoken in Canada, a combination of the official languages (English and French), non-official languages (such as German or Mandarin), Indigenous languages (such as Inuktitut or Ojibway), or even sign languages!


Image is courtesy of Wix.


With so many options, it’s no wonder that the practice of multiple languages has been encouraged since childhood, but why should we learn? How does it help us?


Psychological Development


The act of learning a language has proven to improve cognitive function in interesting ways. From a purely biological perspective, studies have suggested that the brains of those who speak more than one language have more grey matter in their “frontal and parietal brain regions that are involved in executive control.” “Executive control” is an umbrella term that combines the regulation of various cognitive abilities such as problem-solving, memory, reasoning, and more. But what does this mean exactly? Those who know more than one language are required to balance and select their vocabulary carefully. As such, they find more effective management of subconscious and conscious actions, like ignoring “irrelevant stimuli” or multitasking work, respectively, even though the actions themselves have nothing to do with linguistics.


The “retrieval” of language also lends itself to better memory as those who speak multiple languages practice recalling information more often than those who do not. This is especially useful in academic environments, but is generally handy in social situations as well! Accordingly, bilinguals also tend to think faster and respond to instructions better.


Culture


For years, Indigenous peoples of Canada have encouraged the learning of languages as language plays an essential role in the promotion and preservation of culture. The historic loss of language was perpetuated by a mixture of assimilation and residential schools and has affected the population intergenerationally.


“Spirituality is not in the English language for us, spirituality is in Apache. When others talk about us, we’re pictured as pagans. In our own language, we can express our understanding of spirit and nature. Our traditional concepts of environmental protection, caring for the elderly, and living in harmony with one another and with nature is embodied in our language.”

- Jicarilla (hē-kah-rē-yah) Apache Nation


Language is a tool that goes hand in hand with culture (the passing down of stories, certain ceremonies/traditions, holidays) and kinship. It also forms communities of people with a shared experience.


Many minorities in Canada will experience the same loss of language as time passes. Children of immigrants are not usually good at their mother tongue.


Usefulness In Jobs and Society


Those who speak a second language find advantages in the professional and social life as well.

Professionally, this could look like job security, working in other countries/government bodies, etc. You are generally more employable as a result of being bi/multilingual. On average, you’re also paid higher. Furthermore, language learning is useful for career enrichment opportunities. It allows you to take on more fulfilling responsibilities such as translating, travelling, working with consumers directly, etc.


Socially, one of the most favoured benefits is being able to travel, communicating with those from that country, and building self-confidence in social situations.


Overall, language learning has an array of benefits bound to serve you professionally, personally, and socially.


References


9 big advantages of learning a foreign language. (2019, March 17). FluentU Language Learning. https://www.fluentu.com/blog/advantages-of-learning-a-foreign-language/

Bilinguals of two spoken languages have more gray matter than monolinguals. (2015, July 16). ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150716135054.htm

Canada languages. (n.d.). 2020 World Population by Country. https://worldpopulationreview.com/languages/canada

Czekala, B. (2020, February 7). 70 amazing advantages and benefits of language learning (2020). The Universe Of Memory. https://universeofmemory.com/benefits-of-language-learning/

Executive function and control | Boundless psychology. (n.d.). Lumen Learning – Simple Book Production. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-psychology/chapter/executive-function-and-control/#:~:text=“Executive%20function”%20is%20an%20umbrella,the%20processes%20of%20executive%20function

Mūnoz, M. A. (2014, June 23). Does being bilingual make you smarter? British Council | The UK’s international culture and education organisation. https://www.britishcouncil.org/voices-magazine/does-being-bilingual-make-you-smarter



Article Author: Linda Duong

Article Editors: Stephanie Sahadeo, Victoria Huang

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