How learning a language can make you a better communicator
November 19, 2020
Language holds great power. As something we use every single day, it’s easy to overlook, but when you take a moment to think about it – it’s one of the most crucial elements of our lives. Have you ever thought about how much more there is to gain from giving language, and all its uses, a higher priority?
There’s a Bible story that speaks of a time back when the whole world spoke the same language and Babylon was the centre of the universe. The people believed that they could do anything and wanted to create a monument to their power, so they decided to build a huge tower that reached heaven. The story goes; God thought they were all getting a bit too big for their boots and so disrupted their plans by dividing the group into different languages. This caused chaos because no one could understand each other anymore. The tower was never completed and the people scattered to all different parts of the world. And so, a world of different languages was born.
Do you think the moral of that story could be that if we could all just understand each other, we could achieve truly great things??
Understanding though, comes from more than just speaking the same language, it’s all to do with being able to communicate well. Good communication comes from more than words, but words are certainly a good foundation. When the power of language and communication combine – a lot can be achieved.
What’s in a word?
There are 171,146 words currently in use in the English language, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, and countless others that aren’t. We make up words and let others slide out of use – remember when LOL made it into the dictionary? Words, language, and the way we put it all together speaks of our time and place. It tells stories, forms governments, and builds skyscrapers (in places other than Alice Springs) – our way of using language is the makeup of society.
Language is one of the most obvious facilitators of communication. The proper use and consideration of language is pretty much what makes the world go round.
Almost everyone uses their language differently, and it’s not that often that we dissect how we use it ourselves. We have a few bilingual team members in our office. We often have conversations about English rules and how you can say one thing in so many different ways. We start to realise how easy we can be misunderstood by the words we choose. We’ve worked on multiple projects where the aim of the game is to translate over-complicated writing into plain English, making it accessible to a wider audience and eliminating the chance for confusion through clear and concise language. The easier people are able to understand you, the more efficient everything becomes.
Exposure to different languages is a great prompt to think about how you use your own. It helps you unravel rules and sentence structures, gives meaning to nuances that you would normally throw around quite casually. We so value these reminders, as it is our job to communicate our clients messages in a clear way that needs to be heard and understood by so many people of varying English language experiences.
Learning a different language can improve your life
We recently worked on a project with the Alice Springs Language Centre and did some research into the benefits of learning different languages. Learning a new language has so many, less obvious, benefits that are really worth knowing about.
Research has shown that learning a second (or third, or fourth) language can help with:
- Improving your memory
- Sharpening your cognitive skills
- Understanding more about your own language and gives you a better vocabulary
- Improving your ability to multitask
- Overall improvement of communication skills
- Increasing your attention span
- Delaying the onset of dementia
These benefits are even more substantial for children learning a second language, as their brain is still developing. The practice of learning language builds habits in the brain that lead to long term improved cognitive function. It is using areas of your brain that link to so many everyday functions. Compartmentalising information, thinking deeper about the use of language rules, and switching between two different ways of communicating all benefit our overall self-improvement.
Basically, learning a language is just REALLY good for your brain. It’s exercising that muscle in all the right ways and there are so many benefits for you to reap!
By learning more about language, we are inevitably improving our communication skills. The relationship between language and communication is an obvious and very important one. We’re learning empathy and perspective, both of which are essential to good communication.