Wellness Pathway #229 Learn a Second Language

Given all the coverage given to the life and death of Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the USA, I was surprised to glean a new tidbit of information by sitting next to someone at my weekly Kiwanis meeting on Wednesday. Reagan, it was pointed out, was the first President committed to having all the U.S. Ambassadors speak the language of the country to which they were appointed.

Now I’m sure that commitment served to enhance the reputation of the USA in countries around the world — the domination of English and the monolingualism of Americans are both legendary and unfortunate — but Reagan may not have known that that commitment also served to enhance the health and wellness of our Ambassadors.

Studies have demonstrated that learning and speaking a second language are neuroprotective activities, in other words, they help the brain do better. Even in old age, learning and practicing new skills will cause the brain to reorganize and repair itself.

But that’s no reason to wait. New research, reported in the Journal of Psychology and Aging, indicates that the earlier we learn and the more we speak a second language the quicker our minds will be and the more we will avoid the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related memory maladies. Second languages were shown to make the brain perform better at every age. 

Given Reagan’s historic support of bilingual education (he signed the first legislation in 1967 that allowed the use of other languages of instruction in California’s public schools), one wonders if he himself took the time to learn and speak a second language. If he had, it would have done him good.

Coaching Inquiries: Do you know a second language? Do you speak it regularly? How could you learn a second language? What other new skills might you learn to take advantage of their neuroprotective capabilities?

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May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
2010-2011 President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org

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