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Does this happen to you, too? Those ‘Keeping Your Brain Active and Healthy” ads and articles seem to pop up everywhere, and they always catch my attention. From our youth to our senior years, doing things to keep our brains working well is a very good plan.
One article that I read suggested that our brains could be more flexible and vital if we learn a second language. Hmm. I decided that had possibilities. I had taken two years of French in high school, back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth, and I was hoping that perhaps I might even remember a bit of it. ‘Learn a new language and improve my brain.’ was my new motto.
I started searching language-learning ideas online. I was on a mission now. Find out how to learn a second language at a reasonable cost. After finding out that there was everything from ‘massively expensive’ to ‘free’ options, I finally ‘used a lifeline’ and asked a friend. She recommended Duolingo, a free app I could get in the app store. The price was perfect. I downloaded it, and I was off to learn French.
For those of you saying, “Oh, no. That would be hard!”, yes, of course. There are parts that are challenging. I am learning all new words for everyday things. And I have to learn new grammar (the order in which the words appear), because when I’m speaking in French, I have to put words in a different order. ‘John’s wife’ becomes ‘the wife of John’. Yes, it does take some work on my part.
But putting in that effort is what increases our brain health and power, I think. And since we each have only one brain, it seems to me that it’s worth the work I put in to give my brain this high-octane brain food. Here’s the really good news: I’m discovering it’s a lot of fun and very interesting, too.
Here’s my first discovery: What we name in a language, and how we talk about it, indicates how we think about it. Who knew? Expanding the ways we understand things surely would help wake up our brains. So I started looking for ways languages describe the same things differently.
My favorite example? When we talk about love. Oh, yes. In English, we say, ‘I love you.’ But have you noticed? It kind of sounds like, ‘I’m dropping my love on you.’ It’s all about me.
But in French, you say, ‘Je t’aime’, which is translated more as ‘I – you – love.’ To me, that is much more interactive. It says we have a relationship of love. That works for me! Much nicer than having ‘love’ dropped on me.
Of course both can work, and you can have a great relationship in any language. I was just thinking that maybe it might be easier to be ‘interactive’ if we were speaking in French. Maybe that’s why it’s called a ‘romance language’? I was intrigued, and I decided to find out more about this.
In Italian, another romance language, you say ‘I love you’ as ‘T’amo’. This translates as ‘You, I love.’ Nice, isn’t it? ‘You above all else I love.’ is a longer version of that concept.
As we used to say in my teenaged years, “Heavy!” Very meaningful. It might even expand how I am thinking about loving someone when they are the first part of our conversation about loving, instead of me, myself and I.
At this point, I was on a roll. I was having fun, and that made me want find out more about how English is different from other languages. And this interest was surely making my brain more active. That’s a win-win.
I started paying attention to the order of the words. As I’ve mentioned, I found out how the order of the words changes, as in ‘my dog’ in English is said as ‘the dog of me’ in French.
The order of the nouns (a person, place or thing) and the adjectives (describing words) change, too. You know how we say a ‘white house’ in English? That’s because if we are thinking in English, we have learned to first look at the color, the adjective, and then the object itself, the noun.
But I found out that in Spanish, for example, we say ‘Casa blanca’. First we focus on the object, the house, and then we describe the color. I never thought of that before. So if I’m speaking in a different language, it helps me be more observant. I look at things both ways. Learning a new language provides such rich mental stimulation.
The fun I was having has caused me to add in a study of Spanish and Italian, too. It’s amazing. I’m slowly learning more and more, and still having a lot of fun.
Would you like to discover new ways to describe things? Are you interested in the amazing differences between languages? And how about engaging in a free and fun way to wake up your brain? If so, perhaps you might like to join me on this adventure. We can practice together.