Carnegie Education

Learning Spanish in the times of Covid-19

2020 has proven to be one of the most challenging years any of us could have ever predicted and 2021 seems to be following the same course.  

Two hands wearing plastic gloves and holding up a globe which has a face mask on

In these Covid-19 times, there is a common factor in our society that is uniting most of us and it is called “Boredom”.  Experts (Radcliffe,2021) have suggested a string of different pastimes in order to beat the feeling of “Je ne sais quoi” by proposing a range of activities from drawing to cooking or even training your children to be massage therapists! (Actually, not a bad idea at all).

As Skinner (1954) said, ”the sum of our knowledge goes far beyond simple textbook learning.  The critical thinking skills acquired while learning will last a lifetime. The learning process never ends, even long after the days of school are over. Never stop challenging yourself to explore new information, new ways of doing things, and different ways of thinking about the world” (Skinner,1954, pp.86-97).

An activity that is both entertaining and interesting is learning a new language. It could improve mental health and agility and potentially provide a much needed career boost. Linguists and language providers argue that there are many health benefits of language learning, including improve cognitive functions, fighting depression, delaying dementia symptoms and helping to recover from brain injury (Vince, 2016; Trautner, 2019; Jones, 2021; Wiley, 2021).

According to above researchers, the overall advantages of speaking an additional language are:

  1. Better understanding of other people perspective (we are bilingual so bicultural).
  2. More mental flexibility: better focused attention, available to ignore what’s not necessary and choose what is valuable.
  3. Decision making is affected by language.  Monolingual brits may be at disadvantage as bilinguals have the ability of quicker thinking and decision making.
  4. Language skills bring other skills such as creativity or perception and awareness of what is happening as you pay more attention to detail.
  5. Post Covid-19 world may benefit from multilingualism as globalization is allowing languages and their cultures to spread and dominate on a global scale.
  6. In Covid-19 times, language learning has moved to online learning which is good as it can guarantee continuity whatever the weather!
  7. Stave off dementia: Craik et al. (2010) state that bilingualism could delay Alzheimer’s disease in susceptible people by as much as five years.

Whilst the benefits of learning a new language might be unquestionable, the question about the relevance of and the rationale behind the timing could have its merit.  

We are in the middle of a pandemic and cannot travel at the moment, but that does not mean we should not be ready for the time when sunnier days arrive and we are able to travel to our dreamful places and converse with the local people.  

Spanish is a beautiful language and it is widely used but if you still need convincing here are some of the reasons why you should start to learn Spanish:

  1. More than 400 million speakers in the world. (Epdata, 2021)
  2. Recent reports indicate that Spanish is the most important second language for British citizens.
  3. It is fun and easy to learn. During the coronavirus lockdowns the UK has led the way of users of language apps such as Duolingo or Babble.  Britons found it was a quick and fun way to learn a few foreign words (BBC News,2021)
  4. It will boost your career.
  5. It will expand your entertainment options. Who hasn’t binged watched the Spanish “Money Heist” on Netflix?

Whatever the reasons for learning a new language, there has never been a better time to start.  Remember that very soon you will be able to travel and put into practice all you have learned!

 

References

BBC NEWS (2021). UK leading the way in use of language-learning apps. Available at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-55562267?at_custom3=BBC+News&at_custom1=%5Bpost+type%5D&at_medium=custom7&at_custom4=EC61BA12-5417-11EB-86E6- 2C5F0EDC252D&at_campaign=64&at_custom2=facebook_page&fbclid=IwAR1ov2n03_vWHCabyj-GoZ_QYLPlHsk8euOHzR6HtgPDSxn7xIGWfudaEi0  (Accessed: 15 February 2021)

EPDATA (2021) Available at www.epdata.es/datos/lengua-espanola-mundo-datos-graficos/513 (Accessed: 1 March 2021)

JONES, L. (2021), Why learning languages has real mental health benefits. Available online at https://blog.lingoda.com/en/learning-languages-mental-health-benefits/ [accessed 04/03/2021]; 

RADCLIFFE, S. (2021) “Lockdown cabin fever: 56 tried, tested and terrific ways to beat the boredom”, The Guardian. 27th January. Available at: Lockdown cabin fever? 56 tried, tested and terrific ways to beat the boredom | Health & wellbeing | The Guardian. [Accessed: 27th January 2021].

SKINNER,B.F.(1954). The science of learning and the art or teaching.  Harvard Educational Review, 24(2), 86-97;

TRAUTNER, T. (2019) Advantages of a bilingual brain. Available online at https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/advantages_of_a_bilingual_brain [accessed 04/03/2021]

VINCE, G. (2016) Why being bilingual works wonders for your brain, The Guardian,available  online at: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/aug/07/being-bilingual-good-for-brain-mental-health [accessed 04/03/2021];

WILEY, M. (2021) Is Language Learning Positive for Mental Health? Available on line at  https://www.fluentin3months.com/mental-health-language-learning/ [accessed 04/03/2021]; 


Itziar Villameriel

Senior Lecturer / Carnegie School Of Education

Itziar Villameriel is Senior Lecturer for Spanish. She has a MA in Literary and Financial and Legal Translation in Spanish. Her interests are terminology and lexicography. Itziar researches the structure and uses of Spanish lexis and the history of Spanish Lexicography.

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