Language learning and mental health: a true supplementary therapy

Language learning and mental health: a true supplementary therapy

Lately, I have been thinking about this. I dealt with a really bad moment in my life about 2 years ago and one of the first steps I took to get myself back together (besides changing several things regarding my life) was taking back language learning at a rather formal environment. I took back German for a while before running into the opportunity of my life, learning Polish for real 🙂 . In both instances I must say I felt more confident of myself and gained a lot of self-trust and some of that lost self-esteem since I had to interact with new people and making constant silly mistakes (like the time I called a certain disgusting figure of Chilean history a “hero” in Polish). Losing any kind of shame was important and of course, when traveling, leaving insecurities behind and just go with the flow and expect to be corrected sometimes (despite I would get several smiles) and not take those corrections personally. Such attitudes helped me a lot with feeling better about myself, accepted and even making friends easier than before. Specially friends I can geek out about languages or cultural aspects without being mocked by people because “we have got each other’s backs”.

I must say I am glad I haven’t been the only one with this positive experience. Even The Guardian has featured a piece on why the typical language class structure is a good solution for people dealing with mental health issues. This article describes beautifully the experience on how language learning became a journey of self-knowledge and shutting the mouth of the “black dog” (aka depression) and enjoying the long, hard, but fun path to fluency of a language without being aware of it, of course. A post from LanguageTrainers also offers a great infographic that simply explains the benefits of language learning:

Infographic from Language Trainers

Even the NHS recommends it to take it as an activity that does help you feel better about yourself and in which age is no limit. I still remember that my classmates from German class were from different ages, neighbourhoods or even walks of life, yet we managed to have fun together, enjoy our classes and not to mention the classical Feierabend which was expected by all of us 😀 .

By the way, I am not saying that language learning should be the solution to mental health issues and ditch all official and mainstream therapy for it, but it should be a supplementary therapy 🙂

Have you had any good experiences in your life with language learning? Have you struggled with mental health issues in the past and found a good way to deal with it? Share them in the comments!

  • Ola Jagielska

    Hola!
    Last year was very difficult for me, I had problems with getting a job in China and I think that learning languages really helped me. I could actually see that I was getting worse when I didn’t study or practice for some time.
    This year I already have a job, but of course life won’t let us stay content for too long and I’ve just been diagnosed with high blood pressure. It runs in my family, but it still was a bit of a shock as I think I have a healthy lifestyle. I really hit me that I will have to be on medication till the rest of my life.
    But I’m trying to turn it into something good. I want to exercise more, take up yoga and tai chi, and of course keep on learning languages. It already helped during some difficult times and I know it will help me in the future.

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