Traveling and studying abroad has its obvious benefits. Touring the world is often on many people’s “bucket lists.” When faraway locations they’ve only read about, or seen on TV, become a reality – it’s like a dream come true. Many of our students and adult travelers feel this way when initially signing up to study abroad, or take a cultural tour. And while there’s no denying it – coming face-to-face with new foods, beautiful architecture, rich cultural history and friendly people does change you – there are also hidden gems in a study abroad experience. One is the opportunity to actually get smarter.
Multilingualism and your Cognitive State
If that heading throws you off from all of the “big words,” it’s a sign you need to learn a foreign language. We tease – but a study that fascinates us comes from Tel Aviv, Israel where some of the oldest in the Jewish population were studied over the course of 12 years. Researchers wanted to know what impacted and predicted their cognitive state (or how well they problem solved, reasoned, communicated, paid attention – that sort of thing.) After a thorough academic study, results were fascinating:
- “Those who reported being most fluent in a language other than their mother tongue scored higher on average than did those whose mother tongue was their best language.”
- “Number of languages spoken was a greater indicator of cognitive ability – even beyond the effect of other demographic variables, such as age, gender, place of birth, age at immigration, or education.”
Read the entire study: Multilingualism and cognitive state in the oldest old.
Study Abroad to Learn a Foreign Language
Because our study abroad programs are based on the Immersion Method Language Program, our students have the opportunity to apply the same principles of the Israel study, and improve cognitive abilities. When abroad, students are fully immersed in the culture – from the housing, food, and traditions – to the language. We believe this is the best way to learn a foreign language; as does Steve Kaufmann who wrote “Learn a Foreign Language.” Steve writes, “By far the most important factor is how much time you are immersed in the language. This means spending time enjoyably connected to the language you are learning.”
Learning to speak a foreign language can be done; whether you’re in your early 20s or your 50s! The immersion principle allows each of our travelers the chance to fully embrace a new culture while soaking up each of its wonderful elements – including the language.