Why It’s Not So Bad to Fail at Language Learning

Here is a great New York Times article on the benefits of language learning – even when the language is not successfully learned. It talks about some of the cognitive benefits of trying to learn a new language and thus why it’s no so bad to fail at language learning:

“The Benefits of Failing at French”

My 56-year-old mother has spent the last 2 years living in Istanbul, Turkey, studying Turkish while teaching art in English. Although her Turkish remains far from fluent (and this is her first attempt to learn a language!), she has mastered the ability to communicate with a variety of people in Turkish to accomplish such tasks as directing a taxi, ordering food, navigating Turkish computer programs at her school, and making polite conversation.

Her comments?
“I think that studying a language has improved my memory in many ways. I remain hopeful that I will get the opportunity to try to learn another language. I also think I’ve become more tolerant of my own mistakes and forgive myself for not being able to perform up to my own expectations. So what if I don’t ever become fluent? What does it matter?”

Her contract in Turkey has ended. So, she’s preparing to leave for a new 2-year contract at a school in Ethiopia where she hopes to learn some Amharic. This is surely a daunting task for anyone but, as I always say, the most difficult language to learn is the language you don’t want to learn. Conversely, the easiest language to learn is the one you are excited about.

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