Looking for the Best Holiday Gift Ever? How About a Second Language?
Looking for the Best Holiday Gift Ever? How About a Second Language!
Tired of all the “things” littering your family members’ Holiday Wish Lists? Sometimes, you have to be your own Santa Claus (otherwise known as Papa Noel, Babbo Natale, Father Christmas…), take over the gift giving reigns and get that list under control. Sometimes, the Things on the list should be trumped by Experiences, which last much longer than any material trends, gizmos and gadgets.
If that sounds like a more refreshing approach to you, why not give the gift of a foreign language this holiday season?
The Gift that Keeps on Giving
Giving the gift of language classes is a gift that will keep on giving, year after year and has many personal benefits. With knowledge of a second language comes a myriad of benefits. In learning and using a second language, the brain becomes faster and more flexible; the process of learning another language strengthens the language pathways of the brain and adds nerve synapses; memory improves and there is the possibility of staving off the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
While English is a valuable language to know worldwide, we certainly know that English isn’t the only worthwhile language of the world to know. Learning a new language may increase employment potential and could even lead to career paths in places you or your gift recipient never would have considered before.
There are also altruistic benefits to learning another language. Learning a foreign language helps us understand other peoples and cultures, a skill sorely needed these days. Simultaneously it enhances connection and understanding of the world around us. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to travel to countries where your second language is spoken, further strengthening your ties to peoples around the world.
There are several ways you can give the gift of language to yourself or others:
Sign up for an immersion program
There is no doubt that the most effective and inspiring way to learn a foreign language is an immersive experience. Immersion generally includes traveling to a country that speaks the target language and participating in a combination language immersion/homestay program. These programs run the gamut from weeks to months at a time — depending on your interest, schedule… and budget!
You can search for immersion language programs online or contact your local high school or university and speak to a professor that teaches that language. Often, schools offer immersion programs over the summer and are happy to allow community members to tag along because it helps to lower the overall prices. In some cases, the programs offer all-inclusive travel options, in others you may be responsible for your own air fare and accommodation. Search for a program that best meets the learner’s needs and comfort levels.
Check with a local Junior College
Look at your local Junior College and contact their foreign language department. High school graduates can generally enroll for single classes without committing to a course of study; many are offered at night to accommodate full-time workers. If the idea of homework and testing doesn’t appeal to you, ask the professor if auditing is allowed. This can be a no-pressure way for adults, or focused adolescents, to gain the exposure and rigor of a language with a lower-pressure environment.
Hire a private tutor
They say the best way to learn a subject is to teach it, which is why many language teachers and foreign language linguists enjoy offering private tutoring sessions. Imagine a high school teacher who teaches Mandarin Chinese. Unless he/she is teaching at the higher levels, odds are there are only a few truly inspired students. Tutoring offers a way for that same teacher to work one-on-one with a really motivated student. You can search online for language tutors in your area or you can check in with local schools and universities and get referrals from the foreign language department.
Online language platforms
There are also online language platforms that offer free, affordable and/or downright costly language classes. Examples include platforms such as Livemocha!, which uses web-based audio and visual tools as well as real native speakers to help users learn the language. Their approaches and learning modalities are varied. Other popular tools include Rosetta Stone and Babbel.com.
No matter how in depth you choose to go with learning a second language, it is a gift that will keep giving for years to come!