By Otterbein Granville resident Kathie H.
Parlez-vous français? Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Are you multilingual? Bi-lingual, trilingual, polyglot, hyperpolyglot? Even if your Swedish is a little rusty or you learned just enough German to be polite while traveling, there are benefits to keeping up your interest in a foreign tongue. There are websites like Duolingo that offer enjoyable lessons to build and refresh vocabulary, pronunciation, listening skills, and writing.
Finding a Plethora of Languages Among Residents
When we moved to Otterbein Granville last July, to my delight, we discovered a community with a plethora of languages represented among our residents. One of my first encounters was with Anne and Patrick A., whose cottage flies the French Tricolore at both the front and back doors.
A delightful mealtime conversation in French was the beginning of an ongoing friendship that included the opportunity to join a Cercle Francophone for two hours of conversation once a month, often with typical French taste treats. Like Proust, a little “Madeleine” cake or a “Far Bréton” prune pudding can stimulate memories of past times and experiences.
Discovering a Love for Languages at an Early Age
Since I lived with a German-speaking grandmother for the first 12 years of my life, studied Latin, French, and Spanish in high school, was an exchange student in Mexico at 17, and spent a summer working in Paris, France at 22 while in college majoring in French, I enjoy listening to and learning languages.
As a new resident, I am curious to explore stories of travel and language interest whenever the subject comes up. In a few short months, I have met speakers of German, Danish, Swedish, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, Yiddish, Russian, and of course, French. There are probably more, and my ear is attuned to a slight accent or turn of phrase that comes with knowing another tongue.
In October, we had the pleasure of hearing a performance by Leap Boundary Breakers, a children’s choir from Chennai, India. They sing in numerous languages in their quest to bring greater global awareness and unity.
Recognizing the Benefits of Learning Foreign Languages
Learning and practicing languages opens doors of discovery to culture, art, and cuisine while inviting curiosity and understanding, communication, and friendship.
The mental health benefits of practicing a foreign language are many. Our brain is stimulated by working out new grammar patterns, learning new vocabulary, and creatively putting together new sounds and meanings to express our thoughts.
Like exercising our muscles, using a foreign language gives our brain a workout, makes it stronger, and our gray matter grows! We can stave off cognitive decline and boost our memory. Our creativity and self-esteem increase, too, as we improve our native tongue by widening our understanding of word origins and applications.
We stay flexible and original as we learn to maneuver in new cultural and linguistic situations. Research shows that switching languages increases our attention span, helps us maintain focus, and blocks distractions.
At dinner in the spacious dining room at Otterbein Granville, we joined a table of eight, and I asked if anyone had done Ikebana flower arranging, a particular interest of mine. Five of that random group had traveled to or lived in Japan, and two had studied the art of Japanese flower arranging. Coincidences! It is a small world here at Otterbein Granville, whether food, language, or flowers.
Ready to Explore Life Here?
Otterbein Granville is a life plan community near Columbus, Ohio, that offers private senior living residences in a park-like setting. Resident-directed activities create a supportive and engaging culture.
The community also provides a comprehensive health care program to meet the changing needs of residents, including assisted living, skilled nursing, memory support, and long-term nursing care.