Five Things to Know About Learning a Foreign Language

—Thoughts from UAB foreign language instructors and alumni

 

1. Languages broaden perspective. Being able to speak directly with people from other countries is a powerful tool. Knowing subtle differences in words and phrasing promotes better communication and cultural understanding.

 

2. Language training should start early. Studies show that children exposed to foreign languages do better in school and get higher SAT scores. One reason may be that languages help children learn to decode and recombine unfamiliar information. UAB offers a yearly summer camp where children can learn Spanish.

 

3. Languages provide good brain exercise for all ages. Research shows that learning languages helps promote memory and healthier brains in older adults. Despite having more marked accents, seniors can learn languages fairly easily.

 

4. Languages should be used whenever possible. Take advantage of every opportunity to read, write, speak, or listen. Unused skills get rusty.

 

5. Language is a lifetime process. Be realistic, and don’t get discouraged if you don’t learn a language in 30 days. Even native speakers are constantly learning.

 

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