Explore the World through Language in 2021

Is there are particular culture or language that has always captured your imagination? Do you dream of strolling down the Champs Elysees in Paris, climbing Machu Picchu, or visiting a Kyoto tea house? 2021 will hopefully be the year that we can all start to dream about travel once again. In the meantime, learning a new language is a fun and exciting way to explore another culture. There are numerous other benefits, as well.

December is Learn a New Language Month. Besides making foreign travel easier, there are many great reasons to learn another language.

  • Your brain will say “merci” – Numerous studies have shown that second language learning improves overall academic performance in children and prevents cognitive decline and in adulthoodImprovements in memory have also been documented. These benefits were present both in children and people who began learning a new language in adulthood. Our brains thrive on variety and novelty. Stretching our mental muscle by learning a new language can help our brains remain limber and flexible, even in old age.
  • Your heart may grow – Some studies suggest that knowing more than one language boosts empathy in children. Learning to see the world from another’s perspective can broaden views and open hearts, making us more understanding and empathetic. As Haruki Marukami says, “Learning another language is like becoming another person.” What better way to increase our empathy than to learn to see the world through another's eyes?
  • You may open to a new world of literature – For those of us who love the work of international writers, learning a new language can open up a new world of literature or poetry. Do you dream of reading Baudelaire in the original French? Are you curious about what Akhmatova's poetry sounds like in Russian? Learning a new language enables us to experience these art forms in the fullest possible way. 
  • Your job prospects may increase – We live and work in an increasingly globalized world. Many employers are looking for candidates who are comfortable in a global environment and who have the skills to communicate in more than one language. 

Ready to get started? HCPL has some resources and tools to help.

Transparent LanguageTransparent Language is a language learning software program available through the Harris County Public Library. The learning platform has programs for more than 100 languages, including many lesser-known dialects. The exercises are fun and effective.

The library also provides access to numerous books, ebooks, audiobooks and videos on foreign language learning. Below is a selection of our book collection:

Elementary Mandarin Chinese

French Demystified

Easy German Step-by-step

Beginner's Japanese

The ultimate Spanish 101

Ready to take your learning to the next level or maybe practice with a group? Ask your local librarian about additional learning resources or language learning groups in your area. By practicing with others, you'll improve your language skills and make new connections. In 2020, many of us have learned the value of human connection and its many benefits. In 2021, hopefully we can start making new connections once again -- maybe by opening the door to a new language.  

This blog was written by Bronwyn S. and first appeared December 2020.