Daily Duolingo Sessions

My streak as of March 17, 2022

As of today, April 12th, I have completed a 567 day streak on Duolingo, and I have every intention of continuing my daily language practice on the user friendly app. I began this streak with Japanese and Spanish as my daily languages, and added Portuguese at the beginning of March because I want to have some familiarity with the language when I visit Portugal in May. Duolingo is an excellent app for brushing up on languages or even learning a new one, and Duolingo Plus is only $84 per year. For that price, you can practice as many languages as you’d like.

I have practiced a bunch of languages, besides the ones I mentioned previously, on Duolingo over the past several years (French, German, Hungarian, Latin, Italian, and Hawaiian), and I love the fact that I can jump back into practicing any of those languages if I’d like. Though I took French and Latin in high school, I am rusty in those languages, and I only know a small amount of Hungarian, German, Italian, and Hawaiian. It is important for me to polish my Spanish speaking and reading skills constantly, not only because I was immersed in it when I would visit my dad and his children from his second marriage, but also because I don’t want to lose the skills I learned from Spanish classes I took throughout grade school, high school and college. I also feel a responsibility to learn as much Japanese as I can, since I am half Japanese, took Japanese in college, and intend to visit Japan again in the future.

Duolingo truly is a fantastic way to learn any language which is in their system. I highly recommend it!

Learn a Foreign Tongue To Protect Your Brain

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Please read my original post at:

http://xactmind.com/xc/articles/learn-a-foreign-tongue-to-protect-your-brain/

By: Dr. Stacey Naito – Physician and IFBB Pro

Bilingual Brains

Numerous research studies have revealed that people who speak two or more languages possess greater skill in multitasking and paying attention than those who only speak one language. In addition, a 2013 study discovered that individuals who spoke two languages developed the signs of dementia more than four years later than people who only spoke one language, which strongly suggests that being bilingual may help to delay the onset of dementia.

Never Too Late

Scientists have determined that the earlier one learns a second language, the greater the protective benefits against dementia, but it is never too late to learn a foreign tongue, even if you only learn a bit of the language. Be ready for a challenge, though, because most aspects of learning a foreign language later in life will be more difficult.

One clear benefit which older individuals have over youngsters when learning a foreign language is that they have much larger vocabularies which are often as large as those of native speakers. However, the challenges which exist for older people learning a foreign tongue are numerous. First of all, phonemes, or sounds, of a language are very easily picked up by children, but are much more difficult for adults to learn. Secondly, adults automatically hear a foreign language through the filter of their native language, which is not the case in toddlers. As a result, the older learner may have issues with pronunciation.

A toddler’s brain has about fifty percent more neuron connections than an adult brain. The extra connections are a safeguard against potential early trauma, but are also critical for early language acquisition. After a child reaches six years of age, adaptability declines as a result of the brain’s need to acquire other skills during development. This adaptability, also known as neuroplasticity, continues to plummet throughout the years, making it more difficult to obtain new language skills.

Several studies have suggested that learning a foreign language later in life can delay age-related cognitive decline, as well as delay the onset of dementia. In addition, the mental challenge of learning a new language during later years improves executive function, which is important for mental flexibility.

Travel Outside Of Your Comfort Zone

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Traveling abroad is a wonderful way to break out of established patterns and comfort zones, become exposed to new cultures, and press the spiritual reset button. I have always been interested in doing more international travel, but because of financial and time constraints, the extent of my visits to other countries has been confined to Mexico and parts of Europe. I don’t feel challenged culturally when I visit Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, Sacramento, Columbus or Chicago, because the primary language is still English, and American customs are relatively consistent around the country. When I return home from any of these places, I don’t feel a shift in my perspective like I did when I visited Europe.

I will be traveling to Europe, Australia and Indonesia within the next two months and am exhilarated and somewhat terrified. What will I encounter in these places? What kinds of people will I meet? What will I learn about myself? Even the process of gathering information on my upcoming trips to Hungary, Sydney, and Bali is causing my life’s perspective to shift. I have mostly been focusing on the trip to Hungary since it is scheduled a month before the other two locations, and have been making a concerted effort to learn the Hungarian language before I arrive there. In my efforts to learn Hungarian, I have experienced a shift in my cerebral cortex which not only helps me with the language, but to also think like a Hungarian, at least to a certain extent. When I practice the speaking drills, I imagine being in the middle of Budapest, having to ask for directions, struggling with a very difficult language to make my thoughts understood.

In addition to the language barrier, I have no idea how to navigate through Budapest and imagine that I will need to learn the public transportation system or take a taxi to certain areas, while backpacking and walking through other areas. This will be an adventure unlike any other I have experienced. Things I am incredibly reliant on like clean food sources and a gym will be somewhat hit or miss when I am out there. I know I will feel a bit like I got drop kicked into a very unfamiliar territory, and I know I will be well outside my comfort zone during the trip.

Some of the greatest breakthroughs have come from challenging existing patterns. Perhaps I will have an epiphany while in a foreign land, trying to find my way and struggling with a language which I am rather unfamiliar with. I am certainly up for the challenge and the adventure. It has been far too long since i have thrown myself out into the big wide world, at risk of stumbling over every little thing. It certainly doesn’t help that my brain is more like a stone than a sponge when it comes to learning languages now. However, I have made a concerted effort to learn Hungarian. At least I can say things like “szeretnék valamit enni” (I would like something to eat) while in Hungary and hopefully understand the response I will get to that statement.

I am excited for the adventures ahead and fully expect them to influence how I view the life I have built for myself. It’s always good to shake things up a bit!

Use It Or Lose It: How I Forgot Foreign Languages

foreign languagesI was a pretty ambitious kid and consequently managed to take Spanish, French, Latin, and Japanese during my school years. For those of you who are curious about how much exposure I had in school to each of these languages, they are as follows:

MANY years of Spanish (plus cultural exposure)
Two years of Latin
One year of French
One year of Japanese (plus cultural exposure due to my Japanese heritage)

I am so glad I took Latin in high school because it proved to be extremely helpful during medical school, but my decision to take French was primarily a way of filling up my senior class schedule. French was so easy for me that I got the the only A+ in the class. As for Spanish, I was so culturally and scholastically immersed that I approached fluency at a couple of different points. Finally, with Japanese, I wanted to have a more solid understanding of the language of my ancestors and wanted to honor my heritage.

As the years passed I found few opportunities to speak French, so I am now quite bad at it. I can read and understand about 25% of it but beyond that I am lost. I also went through a very similar experience with Japanese.

Spanish is an entirely different story because I keep finding myself in situations in which I could use my Spanish speaking and reading skills. Nevertheless, because I don’t speak it regularly, I am getting pretty rusty in my ability to converse in Spanish. Though I had learned and used medical Spanish out of pure necessity, I now rarely encounter Spanish speaking patients, so that skill is diminishing as well. What is perhaps most frustrating is when I am struggling too find the words in Spanish to say something I was so easily able to convey 10 years ago.

Like any skill, comprehension of a foreign language requires regular usage so that it is not lost. Looks like a trip to Costa Rica or Venezuela may be in order!