Recent research shows that those who speak a second language tend to develop dementia 5 years later than those of us who can only speak one. This level of prevention is greater than anything currently offered in the fields of medicine or pharmacology. It is from this incredible fact that Lingo Flamingo was born.
Beginning in 2015, Lingo Flamingo marries a love of languages with a desire to promote life long learning and a personal quest to make language learning accessible for all and improve the lives of those living with dementia.
Our raison d’être can be best seen through our stimulating language classes for older adults and those living with dementia. These unique classes take into account the medical, physical, and mental health of learners in order to employ the senses, keep the brain active, build confidence, and foster connections between participants. We've worked with individuals of all ages and at all stages of dementia diagnosis, and in so doing have improved their decision-making and multi-tasking skills, and heightened their ability to concentrate and communicate. In this way, we use foreign languages as a vehicle to empower older adults in care homes, day centres, and communities across Scotland.
To date, we have taught over 1000 students, encompassing an array of ages, locations, and abilities. Due to the inherent diversity within our classes, no two sets of students are the same, yet using our very own vivid and accessible workbooks, the first of their kind in the world, we ensure consistency, and manage to include memory tips, nostalgic references, historical anecdotes, and linguists cues throughout. Such prompts sit alongside features that have been designed to evoke senses, with exercises including music, touch, scent, feel, and taste. In this way our classes serve to ease older adults back into learning, an important factor given some participants may not have been in such an environment for many decades. Indeed, this transition back into learning is key to our mission as a whole, as we seek to transform education more widely by demonstrating that it is never too late to learn something new, to show that life long learning is truly that, learning for the whole of life.
Key to our wider mission of ensuring life long learning is truly that, learning for the whole of life, is guaranteeing that languages are as accessible as possible. We do this in a number of ways:
By creating a laid-back, natural learning environment, where students feel comfortable connecting with classmates, trying new things, and even making mistakes. This relaxed environment is particularly important in the UK where many of us may have had bad experiences of language learning at school or feel that learning a language is something uniquely difficult or only suited to a certain kind of person or those of a particular age.
We make learning accessible by ensuring lessons are interactive and immersive, using a variety of techniques that have been designed to evoke senses, with exercises including music, touch, scent, feel, and taste. These sensory activities mean that classes are fun and that learning is absorbed more organically.
These core values therefore run through everything we do: immersive, fun, accessible, sensory, not-for-profit.
Excitingly, from late 2018 we will be putting these values into a new venture: our very first Language Nest!
The Language Nest
The first Lingo Flamingo Language Nest is located in Shawlands, Glasgow, an area known for its vibrancy, diversity and strong sense of community. Within its walls we offer language classes to those of all ages - from toddlers and teenagers to grannies and granddads - all the while ensuring that each lesson is language learning done differently.
We still be using the same sensory, stimulating techniques to make classes fun and accessible. And we also continue to emphasise the health benefits and show that language learning can be for everyone. What’s more, we offer a wider range of languages to choose from, with more likely to be added in the future.
Most importantly, all the money that is raised through the Language Nest is put towards care home classes. That’s to say, each and every penny of surplus revenue is used to cross-subsidise classes for older adults and those living with dementia across Scotland. As such, we see the Nest not only as a way to change perceptions of language learning, but as means to expand our social impact and reach a greater number of people living with dementia. It also means that any student joining our flock will not only gain from the benefits of language learning, but can feel good about having created a positive effect on society. Everyone’s a winner.