Oh, it’s that time of the year again! No, not Christmas. Fast-forward a bit. I’m talking about that time of the year when you make unrealistic resolutions that won’t probably make it to the end of January. You know it. I know it. Let’s be honest. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make a list of resolutions for the upcoming year. Every year we are – or should be – a better version of our past selves. One of our missions in life is to constantly improve and learn. So don’t give up on your list of resolutions. Write it down and include “learn a new language”. Read on to find out why you should do that and how to keep ALL your new year’s resolutions.
The time to start is now
Yep. Not next year, not tomorrow, and not on Monday. Our biggest problem when setting resolutions is our apparent inability to regard each resolution as a SMART objective (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound). Instead of imagining how accomplished we are going to feel when we are going to reach a certain goal, we should envision the process towards it and enjoy every second of it. For example, a faulty new year’s resolution sounds like this “this year I want to learn a new language”. That’s not enough to motivate you. If you were to change it into a SMART objective, it should look like this: “I want to reach a conversational level in Thai by the end of December because I want to travel to Thailand next year”.
Furthermore, studies have shown a correlation between motivation and reward or competition. In order for you to get rewards sooner, your resolution or SMART objective should be divided into smaller resolutions like “I want to learn 1,000 words in French by the end of March because I want to be consistent in achieving my resolutions”. And guess what will happen by the end of March? Knowing 1,000 words will help you recognize no less than 75% of the reading matter. That means you will be able to understand quite a few sentences before reaching for a dictionary. Isn’t that a nice reward for your ego?
Back to what I mentioned about studies connecting motivation to competition, you should definitely get a friend – one friend – on board! Don’t brag about it on social media. That’s the worst you could do. Back in 2019, Gollwitzer and his partners’ published research suggested that sharing your intentions and goal with the world can influence your determination to achieve it. By sharing your most important objectives, you expect social recognition in return that will act as a reward as soon as you will get it. Already receiving a reward will make you less likely to work for achieving your goal. Back to getting a friend on board – yes, that will help you. Comparing your results in learning a new language or shredding some kilos will activate your competitive spirit. The obvious reward is you being better.
Keep a diary or agenda. The simple act of crossing things off of your to-do list is an amazing energy boost for your brain. As soon as you’ll achieve some of the mini-resolutions, you’ll feel more confident and determined to continue your journey. Besides, a diary or agenda would be particularly useful for your future “year in review”. Your next new year’s resolutions will be even bolder after realizing how much you can accomplish when creating the right resolutions.
Make this the year you learn a new language
The benefits on why should do this are all connected. For example, if you want to learn Spanish, you’ll inevitably find our more about the culture of Spanish-speaking countries. I say “inevitably” because language always sits at the core of a country’s culture. When you’ll dip into proverbs and idioms, you’ll understand exactly what I mean. Back to the point – if you find out more about a country’s culture, you naturally become curious enough to want to visit it. Knowing the language will change your status from “tourist” to “traveler” – and that’s an entirely different experience of discovery.
Still, the main reason why you should learn a new language this year is mental health. Your brain is like a muscle: train it now and you will enjoy the health benefits later. And learning a second or a third language is a great way of training your brain – especially if you are not a student anymore and the information flow is not as good as it used to be. More precisely, various studies have shown that learning a new language is directly linked to a slower rate of mental decline in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia prevention. This is incredible – especially in the context of two illnesses that take our loved ones away too soon. From the perspective of a family member, Alzheimer’s and dementia are the cruelest of all diseases because they take away one’s essence and leave behind only a stranger’s body.
Moreover, learning a foreign language will give a great boost to your memory. In fact, it can increase the size of your brain! This is what Swedish scientists discovered when they used brain scans to monitor what happens when someone learns a second language.
The third millennium is governed by stress, depression, sleep deprivation and lack of empathy from those around you. Why not give your brain something to be happy about? Learn Spanish. Learn German. Learn Japanese. The time is now! Here are some of the best tips on how to learn a language fast.
Last – but certainly not least – there is also a financial reason in learning a new language this year. Mastering a second or even a third language may earn you some more money either because you will be better qualified to land your job or because you will be able to work as a freelance translator. I, for one, dream of moving to Denmark. So yeah, this is the year when I’m going to learn Danish hoping I will get a better chance at landing a good job there.
So this is my year. The year my dream comes true. But it could also be yours. What are you waiting for?