1) “I’m too old to learn a new language”
We’ve been successfully delivering our classes to older adults and those living with dementia since 2015. Over that period we've received many common questions about the experience. Listed below are some of the queries, questions and misconceptions we encounter most often.
This has to be the number one misconception Lingo Flamingo faces. And we understand why; each of us have always been told how easy it is for children to learn a language, and how there is an optimum window for language learning… but it’s simply not true. Not only are older adults just as capable of learning a new language, if anything language learning becomes more important with age. This is not only because of the inherent value in learning a language (i.e. gaining a new view of the world, broadening your horizon and understanding your own language better), but because language learning is an invaluable way to keep the brain young and healthy. In fact, research shows that older adults are more likely to experience improvement in attention, verbal fluency, memory and multi-tasking when they undertake language learning! What’s more such results are evident after just one week of directed learning!
2) “My mum’s dementia is too advanced to take part in languages”
Family members and carers are often concerned that our classes will be too difficult for their loved ones or that the complexity of language might cause stress or confusion.
Whilst we are completely sympathetic with such concerns we want to put your mind at ease.
Our classes are designed wholly with older adults and those living with dementia in mind. Everything from our sensory teaching technique, to our expert-designed textbooks, to our carefully curated props and teaching tools are chosen to benefit and be appropriate for those with dementia, no matter how far along they may be on their journey.
Indeed, we have worked with older adults at all stages of diagnosis, from those experiencing mild cognitive decline to those who may have lost verbal ability, experience particular compulsions, or who are prone to anxiety or agitation. No matter what the diagnosis, our classes have been shown to improve the well-being of participants. This can be down to a number of reasons. For example, our classes can boost confidence by showing it's still possible to learn something new despite a diagnosis of dementia. Or, equally, our classes bolster quality of life by offering an opportunity for carers or loved ones to do an activity alongside the individual with a diagnosis. Such reasons sit alongside the cognitive research showing that greater concentration, communication and multi-tasking ability can result from our classes, no matter the stage of dementia diagnosis.
3) “Language learning is too difficult, it might confuse our residents”
Our classes are made to be accessible and we’ve crafted them entirely with older adults in mind. Whilst no two classes are the exact same, they are consistent in being slow-paced, fun, and sensory, meaning that anyone and everyone can take part no matter their medical, mental or physical health.
We have worked with students in their seventies, eighties and nineties, as well as students at all stages of dementia diagnosis, and the feedback is overwhelmingly positive from each and everyone of our students.
What’s more, we offer a policy of try before you buy, so we’ll come and offer you a free taster class so everyone can see what the classes are all about and the benefit they are likely to bring.
4) “Is this good value for money relative to other activities?”
Whilst there are many great activity options for older adults, some are better than others. This is because some activities, like language learning, offer a more comprehensive experience. What we mean by this is that as well as being fun, language learning offers a complete workout of the brain, especially when compared to more repetitive tasks, like bingo or sudoku, or more passive tasks, like live music or particular games.
To clarify what we’re meaning here, imagine you wanted to get fit in the gym. Would it not be better to workout your whole body by using different machines rather than concentrating on a single machine or a single manoeuvre? Well, that’s essentially what language learning does; through the need to make unusual sounds, learn new words, complete different tasks, consider different grammatical structures, and acknowledge novel concepts, the whole brain is given a workout in a uniquely healthy way.
Not only is language learning more beneficial than many other activities, we also ensure it's no more expensive. That’s why our classes start at as little as £4 per student per class! And that’s on top of being able to try the classes for free via a taster class in the first place. So what are you waiting for?
5) “Language learning isn’t for me”
If you think language learning isn’t for you, you’re not alone. Some of those even within the Lingo Flamingo team at one point or another thought language learning wasn’t for them. It was seen as too difficult, too time consuming, too… pointless.
But things couldn’t be further from the truth. Firstly, everyone can learn a language. Everyone. Research shows that bilingualism is probably the norm throughout human history, and that we all have the inherent ability to pick up new languages throughout life. So, given it’s very unlikely that you are the exception to these seemingly universal rules of being a human, you can learn a language.
What’s more, despite what your memories may be from school or elsewhere, language learning can be a fun, relaxed and social experience when conducted in the right way. And it’s far from pointless. Language learning opens up the world to you, allowing you to communicate with more people than ever. For example, if you learn Spanish you are able to communicate with over 400 million people you wouldn’t have been able to chat to before. However, even if you learn a language and never speak a word of it to a single soul other than your classmates, it’s still inherently worthwhile. This is because speaking a second language holds up a mirror to your own language and culture, allowing you to understand it in a completely new way. And that’s before you even consider the health benefits.
After just one week of directed language learning you're likely to find your concentration, communication and multi-taking skills heightened. This happens as learning a language is unique in its ability to tackle brain against ageing and promote cognitive health.