Reasons to learn a language, #419: emotional well-being

Posted on 10/01/2014


Watching the film Julie and Julia over the Christmas holidays, I was reminded of an important aspect of language tutoring, or at least of my language tutoring. In the film (recommended if you like France or food, a must if you love both), Julia Childs is frustrated that a French woman won’t let her take cooking lessons. At her language lesson that week, she desperately wants to vent, but her strict teacher just looks at her blankly after her tirade in English and point out that she is supposed to be speaking French.

I never do that.

If my students come to me distracted, thinking about other things, or just frustrated by their day, they are not likely to have the space in their brain for irregular verbs. That’s one reason why I always start with a few minutes of conversation in English. Sometimes, I even let them vent. I think of it as clearing their brain fog, making them more ready to learn: it’s an important part of my job as a teacher to get them there.

I had one student who had a responsible job at her company, and often came stressed to her lesson time mid-morning. We had a slightly longer lesson that most – an hour and a half – so we chatted in English for a good fifteen minutes. Not only did it make her better able to learn, it also meant she went back to work calmer and refreshed.

So you see, language learning can be good for your emotional well-being and your mental health, and even your productivity at work. Choose a personable language tutor, and you get two-for-one: therapy as well as education.


— for more hints and tips on language learning, buy Conquering Babel: A Practical Guide to Learning a Language here in the US and here in the UK.

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