Almost every day we read about the benefits of learning new things to keep your mind sharp. Many retirees learn a language to do exactly that but also to add more depth to the world around them. The ability to understand the language in a foreign country can bring an incredible amount of enjoyment and satisfaction not to mention greater security as you experience new surroundings.
My high school Spanish came in handy the first time we crossed the border into Mexico. Even though we were only there for an afternoon, I was impressed with how much I remembered and how it helped us to navigate our way around. I was happy that I had taken the time and effort to learn a language instead of taking another study hall. Although I was not a great student in my Spanish class (I was happy to get a B), I found out that my three years of agony would pay off in a couple of the vacations we were able to take in retirement. Spain and Puerto Rico offer the opportunity to sharpen your skills in Spanish and, even with a few words here and there, you’ll feel a little bit more comfortable in whatever environment you’re in. With Spanish, you don’t even have to leave the country to put your Spanish vocabulary to work. The southwest and southern Texas are great places to sharpen your language skills. In Miami, there’s a growing and vibrant community that seems to make Spanish their primary language and the culture of native foods and outdoor dining can make you feel like you’re taken a short trip to Madrid. If you’ve made the effort to learn a language, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
In preparation for our trip to Paris, I purchased a language course in French and used my hour-long commute to work as an opportunity to learn a language. I have to say that I was very pleased with my efforts. It seemed overwhelming at first and I found myself repeating lessons in the beginning because I’m a better learner when I can read and listen rather than just listen. Obviously, while you’re driving, you can’t read along with the moderator. I thought my French was passable – until we got there. Fortunately, the number of Europeans who speak English, especially in the cities, is amazing. I think it’s something we’re missing in this country. The ability to speak a second language is a tremendous asset so I encourage everyone, whether they’re retired or in school, to learn a language if they’re able to do it.
Some very friendly Parisians helped us out and it seemed that, if we made an effort to speak their beautiful language, they were a little more eager to help us along. We have been very fortunate to travel to many European countries and part of the enrichment was to learn as much of the language as possible. Of course, you need a completely immersive experience of a month or more to learn a language well enough to carry on a conversation but learning just a few sentences adds to the travel experience. And learning about the foods and cuisine can be another way to introduce the magic of a foreign culture into your world. We have developed a love for many of the foods of Europe and even the Middle East.
You don’t have to travel to a foreign country to learn a language. There are many courses that can be found online, and some local colleges or schools provide language instruction. In New York and Washington, the number of instructional schools is amazing, and classes are available in almost any language you can imagine. The proximity to the United Nations and the State Department respectively is the reason for that and it makes it very convenient if you live in those areas.
But an online course is not a bad way to go and with the amazing technology that’s available, you can find an option where your pronunciation will be evaluated and corrected so you get immediate feedback during your studies. It’s almost like one-on-one instruction and, although it might cost a little more, the benefits are well worth it.
You can also learn a language by watching foreign language movies and television shows. With the internet, almost every language is available, and many people find this to be a very entertaining way to enhance their language skills. If you’ve taken the time and effort to learn a language, you want to make sure that what you’ve learned stays fresh in your mind. I’m very sad to say that much of my French disappeared rather quickly. Perhaps it’s because I learned the language well after I turned sixty while my Spanish, that I learned in my teens, has stayed with me over the decades. Of course, Spanish is much more common than French so that may be another reason as well.
In any event, we encourage you to learn a language as one more way to expand your horizons. In retirement, every day is a chance to learn and do something new. It’s time to Enjoy Retired Life!
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