What Successful Graduates Can Teach About Language Learning

Ever wondered why learning new languages goes beyond being just a requirement for school? Well, let’s tell you — it’s a total game-changer for your academic journey! The real success stories we bring you today will leave no doubt about that.

Whether you’re in high school or college, mastering a new language can open up a world of possibilities:

  • it makes you stand out among your peers
  • it enhances your cognitive skills
  • it boosts your brainpower
  • it gives you a broader perspective on different cultures

And, you know, success in academic life is a solid step towards success in your professional life.

Come on! Let’s dig into some real stories of people who excelled in academics and aced those nerve-wracking exams!

The cognitive benefits of language learning

Let’s kick things off by exploring the cognitive marvels that come with picking up a new language. Studies have consistently shown that learning a second (or third!) language enhances cognitive abilities, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity. These cognitive perks are like a mental gym workout, building muscles you didn’t know you had.

  1. Enhanced memory

There’s this dude from Canada — Jake Anderson. Legend has it, he wanted to crush his university exams. He was in his 2nd semester of Psychology. It was then that he decided to pick up a new language (just a guess — he was not so sure that it could help).

Get this – turns out, learning that language somehow sparked a photographic memory in him! His grades got higher some time after he started practicing Hebrew and German. Dude aced every exam — all thanks to decoding verbs and nailing vocabulary. 

Who knew language learning could turn you into a memory wizard, eh?

Ever wish you had a photographic memory during exam week, like Jake did? Well, language learning will certainly improve your memory. The process of memorizing vocabulary, sentence structures, and grammar rules flexes your brain’s memory muscles, making it easier to recall information when it matters most.

  1. Sharpened focus and attention

Imagine sitting in a lecture, effortlessly absorbing complex information while your peers struggle to stay awake. Language learners often develop enhanced focus and attention, honing the ability to concentrate on the task at hand. This laser-sharp focus can turn a mundane study session into a productive academic adventure.

Erik Nordstrom, the Norwegian guy in the Engineering program, decided to spice things up a bit. He told us

“I used to struggle a lot to stay focused during lectures. Anything would distract me. I even thought about recording the classes to watch later, but that wouldn’t be practical. Then, I read about the power that language learning has in improving attention. So, I decided to learn Portuguese.”

So, instead of just nodding off during lectures, he took the plunge and started learning Portuguese. Random? Not exactly: he had a dream of visiting the exuberant nature of Brazil. 

And that new language turned out to be his secret weapon for staying laser-focused in class!

Suddenly, as the professor delved into the complexities of thermodynamics, Erik was there, absorbing every detail like a sponge. Learning a new language had tuned up his brain to pick out the important stuff and filter out the noise. 

Now, while the rest of his mates were daydreaming about lunch, Erik excelled in every engineering lecture, taking part of them with comments.

Who knew, right? Portuguese and thermodynamics – an unexpected match!

  1. Improved problem-solving skills

“Learning German while tackling a master’s in Data Science was not a piece of cake…,” Jules Vanderbeek admitted. “But you know what? The struggle was worth it — I feel like a problem-solving expert now!”

Jules, the grad student from Belgium, decided to kick his problem-solving skills up a notch.  He could just drown himself in textbooks for a longer time, preparing for his exams and projects, but it was not necessary! 

It happened that he was just starting to learn Mandarin Chinese, and — what a coincidence — as he navigated the twists and turns of German grammar, something magical happened. Jules found himself dissecting complex problems with newfound ease! 

When the next exam day rolled around, Jules tackled those questions like a pro, applying the analytical prowess he had honed through language learning. His project presentations were top-notch, too, showcasing a level of problem-solving finesse that left everyone in awe. 

Little did he know that his venture into learning Mandarin Chinese would become the unexpected catalyst for refining his problem-solving skills!

Learning a language is like solving a puzzle, where words and grammar fit together to form meaningful expressions. This constant problem-solving hones your analytical skills, helping you tackle complex academic problems with ease. 

When faced with a tricky exam question, a language learner’s brain is primed to dissect and conquer.

Language learning as a gateway to cultural understanding

Beyond the cognitive benefits, language learning opens doors to cultural realms, providing a broader perspective that is invaluable in academic pursuits.

  1. Breaking down barriers

In today’s globalized world, connecting with people from diverse backgrounds is more crucial than ever. Language learning breaks down communication barriers, allowing you to engage with a wide range of perspectives. This cultural fluency is not only beneficial for personal growth but also for academic success.

Nia Kariuki, from Kenya, was deeply engrossed in the world of international relations,  pursuing a master’s degree with a focus on Diplomacy and Global Governance. Her journey into learning Japanese became a unique asset in navigating the intricacies of global communication within the realm of international affairs.

Instead of sticking exclusively to the usual academic routine, she was smart and decided to spice things up by diving into the world of Japanese. Yeah, Japanese, not your typical choice, right?

And guess what! Nia found herself not just learning a new language but breaking through communication barriers like a champ! She had two benefits at once:

  • Suddenly, those complex academic texts and lectures became more decipherable. She was connecting dots in a way that left everyone in awe.
  • She became an expert in Japanese international relations in commerce, surpassing even her professors! 

Now, Nia’s not just excelling in final exams, stepping into a successful career (and all it took was a bit of linguistic adventure).

  1. Navigating academic texts

Meet Kasia Nowak, the graduate girl from Poland who decided to level up her reading skills:

“I had been facing texts dripping in cultural nuances, especially from Spanish-speaking countries in South America. So I thought, ‘Why not learn Spanish?’ As I tackled the new language, something clicked inside me”.

Suddenly, those tricky texts started making sense!

Kasia was navigating the world of Comparative Literature, delving into the intricacies of literary works from various cultures and languages. Her decision to learn Spanish offered her a unique lens to decipher cultural contexts in the diverse texts she encountered during her studies.

The professors were impressed! Now, when it comes to dissecting cultural context in texts, Kasia’s the go-to expert in her classroom. Who knew, right? 

Many academic texts are steeped in cultural nuances and references that might be lost on monolingual individuals. Learning a language equips you with the cultural context needed to grasp the full meaning of texts. Suddenly, literature and academic papers become vibrant landscapes waiting to be explored.

Language learning and effective communication

Communication is the lifeblood of academia, and mastering a new language elevates your ability to express ideas with clarity and precision.

  1. Precision in expression

Languages often have words and expressions that don’t have direct equivalents in other languages:

  • Hygge (Danish): A feeling of coziness, comfort, and contentment, often associated with a warm and inviting atmosphere.
  • Schadenfreude (German): The pleasure derived from someone else’s misfortune.
  • Tsundoku (Japanese): The act of acquiring books but letting them pile up without reading them.
  • Saudade (Portuguese): A deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for something or someone absent.
  • Waldeinsamkeit (German): The feeling of being alone in the woods and a connectedness to nature.
  • Dépaysement (French): The disorientation or discomfort when in an unfamiliar environment.
  • Tartle (Scottish): The act of hesitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name.
  • Pisanzapra (Malay): The time it takes to eat a banana. (wow! Look at this!)
  • Meraki (Greek): Doing something with soul, creativity, or love; putting a piece of yourself into your work.
  • Komorebi (Japanese): The effect of sunlight streaming through the leaves of trees.

These words and expressions reflect the diversity of human experience and the unique ways different cultures articulate certain feelings or situations. Learning these unique linguistic gems provides you with a more nuanced and precise way of expressing ideas. 

This precision is a valuable asset when crafting essays, participating in discussions, or presenting research findings.

  1. Confidence in public speaking

Picture yourself confidently presenting your research findings in front of a room full of academics. Language learning nurtures this confidence by enhancing your public speaking skills. 

As you become more comfortable expressing complex ideas in another language, your confidence in articulating thoughts in your native tongue also grows.

  1. Effective collaboration

Academic success is not a solo journey. Collaborative projects and group discussions are commonplace in academia. Language learning fosters effective collaboration by improving your ability to communicate and understand the viewpoints of your peers. 

This collaborative spirit extends beyond the classroom and into the professional sphere.

Language learning as exam prep mastery

Now, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of how language learning serves as a potent weapon in your exam preparation arsenal.

  1. Enhanced studying techniques

The skills developed during language learning — such as memory, focus, and problem-solving — directly translate into more effective study habits. You’ll find yourself absorbing and retaining information more efficiently, turning those late-night study sessions into a productive endeavor.

  1. Mastery of exam techniques

Exams often come with their unique challenges, from time constraints to deciphering complex questions. Language learners, accustomed to navigating the intricacies of a foreign language, are well-equipped to tackle these challenges. 

They excel in deciphering the hidden meaning behind exam questions and formulating well-structured, articulate responses.

  1. Stress management

Let’s face it—exams can be stress-inducing monsters. Language learning, with its inherent challenges and victories, prepares you for the ups and downs of academic life. The resilience gained through language learning becomes your secret weapon against exam-induced stress, allowing you to approach exams with a calm and collected mindset.

Practical tips for language learning success

Now that we’ve explored the myriad benefits of language learning for academic success and exam preparation, let’s wrap things up with some practical tips to kickstart your linguistic journey.

  1. Set realistic goals

Begin with achievable language-learning goals. It’s natural that your studies take up most of your time.

Whether it’s mastering a set number of vocabulary words each week or holding a basic conversation, setting realistic milestones will keep you motivated and on track.

  1. Immerse yourself

Immerse yourself in the language as much as possible. Watch movies, listen to music, read books — make the language a part of your daily life. The more exposure you have, the more natural the learning process becomes.

Take the opportunity to channel your language learning towards your academic studies. This way, you’ll feel more motivated and can even become an expert in your field.

  1. Practice regularly

Consistency is key. Dedicate a specific amount of time each day to language learning. Regular practice is more effective than sporadic, intense study sessions.

  1. Embrace mistakes

Language learning is a journey filled with mistakes. Embrace them as stepping stones to success. Every mispronunciation and grammatical error is a lesson learned.

  1. Join language communities

Connect with fellow language learners. Join online forums, language exchange programs, or local language meetups. Learning is more enjoyable and effective when shared with others.

To wrap things up

In the grand tapestry of academic success, language learning is the vibrant thread that weaves together cognitive prowess, cultural understanding, effective communication, and exam preparation mastery.

It’s a super skill that propels you beyond academic hurdles and into a world of limitless possibilities. 

So, decide your linguistic journey, take advantage of our Speaky app and watch as your academic success reaches new heights. 

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