Many people are making mental and physical plans with the summer holidays fast approaching. These include visiting home countries, discovering new places or even indulging oneself with a staycation.
Sometimes these plans also involve learning new languages. With the global world being interconnected, interest in different cultures and languages has only risen. This is even more true with languages that are popular in the entertainment industry. Korean and Turkish come to mind in the Omani context.
There are many reasons for the interest in learning new languages which saw a sudden spurt during the pandemic of 2020.
According to the popular networking site LinkedIn, the global pandemic, the popularity of interactive online applications, online tutoring, and the entry of language teaching tools into new markets, have all contributed to making language learning fashionable and fun.
Academic studies show that pop culture widely influences young learners to learn new languages. The huge success of Turkish televised series, for example, catapulted the Turkish language to the centre in the Arabian Gulf – facilitated by the closeness to the Arabic language and culture. The same was true of Korean a few years ago.
The benefits of learning a new language are multifold: from physiological and neurological changes in the brain, being able to make new connections in grammar and vocabulary, and even preventing or delaying dementia, language learning is full of advantages.
Other, more indirect skills are also developed as a result of learning a new language. These include increased memory and better concentration, communication skills, and creativity. All of this adds to better academic performance in students, studies conducted by Cambridge University found.
There are innumerable platforms to learn a language now. From Duolingo and Babbel, there are hundreds of language applications, most of which are free, to begin with. All of them are now interactive and have links to videos and live chat opportunities, 1-on-1 tutoring, and even games that encourage learners to proceed to new levels.
There are no signs that learning new languages is going to decrease. Language learning applications are a $3 billion industry with tremendous potential in the years to come. As the applications become more sophisticated, they will invite more participants to explore new worlds of languages. Augmented and virtual reality are the new buzzwords in language learning – put on a headset and immerse yourself in a whole other, foreign world, complete with foreign words in their cultural setting.
But will automation make learning a language unnecessarily? If machines can translate words and sentences in real-time, what is the need to learn another language?
As of now, such fears are unfounded. That is because language is more than just a few words put together to make meaning.
Languages are about people, cultures, and ways of life. It is what connects us to each other, helps us understand our differences, and also points to our similarities. Without languages, we would all be in our own bubbles, unable to communicate.