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8 Reasons To Learn A Language When You Retire

Language learning isn't just for millennials — from keeping your mind fit to enhancing travel, here’s why baby boomers should start studying a new tongue.

Retirement is a period of well-deserved relaxation after a lifetime of hard work, but it also provides an opportunity to accomplish goals you never had time for previously, as well as explore new hobbies and maintain your mental and physical health. One worthy use of your time? Learning a new language. Here are eight reasons you should give it a shot.

1. Challenge Yourself

Who doesn’t enjoy a good challenge to keep themselves stimulated? Taking on a new language helps your mind stay active and contributes to your continued personal growth. Learning and development don’t need to end when you stop working!

2. Stay Mentally Sharp

Losing your memory and your sense of reality to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is a scary prospect, but studies suggest learning a second language can help delay this. In one study, psychologist Dr. Ellen Bialystok and her colleagues found that compared to monolinguals, symptoms of dementia in bilinguals were delayed by four years. In another, researchers in Italy determined that people who speak more than one language showed dementia symptoms an average of five years later than monolinguals.

3. Make Social Connections

Social interactions make us feel alive, and there’s no reason retirement has to turn us into anti-social hermits. Learning a language can improve your social life in two ways. First, you can join study groups (either online or in person) for the specific language you’re learning. This is a great way to practice speaking your new language and make new friends. Second, when you know another language, your opportunities for social connections increase. You’ll be able to chat with non-English speakers in your community and abroad.

4. Enhance Your Mood

While it differs greatly from person to person, depression can affect any of us. One study from the Institute of Economic Affairs found that retirement can increase your likelihood of becoming clinically depressed by 41 percent. However, there are steps you can take to avoid being part of that statistic. One way is to start doing volunteer work, and another is to learn a new language. This article shows how it works.

5. Liven Up Your Travel Experiences

Many people take advantage of the additional free time retirement brings by traveling the globe. Seeing the sights and exploring various cultures can be an amazing experience, but all of those things are enhanced when you can use newly acquired language skills on your travels. Speaking the language allows you to connect with the locals, navigate the country with ease and have a more authentic experience.

6. Dig Into Your Ancestry

The recent surge in popularity of family history websites like Ancestry.com, DNA testing services like 23andMe and TV shows like Finding Your Roots suggests people are eager to learn more about their heritage. It can certainly be fascinating to explore your family tree and find out who came before you, but why not go a little deeper and truly connect with your past by learning the language of your ancestors? Maybe you’ll even discover long-lost relatives and be able to communicate with them in their native tongue.

7. Strengthen Your Brain

In addition to keeping dementia at bay, learning a new language can improve your mental strength in other ways. A study by the American Heart Association found that when recovering from a stroke, the percentage of bilinguals with their cognitive functions intact was more than twice that of monolinguals. Bilingualism can also increase your focus, problem-solving and multitasking abilities.

8. Cross It Off Your Bucket List

Your career may have gotten in the way before, but now’s the opportune time to do all those things you said you wanted to do back in college. It’s a great feeling to reach these goals and cross them off your list. Perhaps learning another language has been on your bucket list for awhile, and if not, it’s never too late to add it. What are you waiting for?

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