In October, researchers at the Canadian organisation Baycrest and York University in Toronto came out with an interesting study on how learning a new language could have cognitive benefits. The study found that learning a second language was an effective and enjoyable way to improve brain health.
Researchers found that older adults who studied Spanish, for instance, showed similar improvements in certain critical cognitive skills as individuals who engaged in brain-training activities that targeted the same skills. The study, published in the journal Aging, Neuropsychology, And Cognition, was among the first to examine whether the process of learning a language could benefit brain health the same way as bilingualism.
As it turns out, Indians—according to a new survey by the language learning platform and educational app Duolingo—don’t want to stop at Spanish. When asked which languages they would consider learning as part of their New Year resolutions for 2022, 18% of the respondents mentioned English, 14% opted for French and 10% for Spanish, putting these three at the top of the language-learning bucket lists. German (8%) and Japanese (5%) followed.
The survey, conducted with international data and analytics group YouGov, involved 1,013 Indian respondents in the 18-50 age group across Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Pune, Ahmedabad and Lucknow.
The findings show language learning is now no longer restricted by geographical location. While the range of reasons to study a new language is diverse—including interest in a different culture, staying connected with the community and pursuing a new hobby—professional and personal growth remain the top motivators, according to the survey.
“As businesses increasingly go international, there is an acute need to communicate effectively in multiple languages,” Karandeep Singh Kapany, country marketing manager of Duolingo India, says on email. “It is encouraging to see more and more Indians hop on to the international language-learning bandwagon as they seek to pursue better career opportunities by mastering a new language.” Duolingo currently offers more than 100 courses across 40 languages, from Spanish, French, German and Japanese to Klingon (if you find this puzzling, watch Star Trek!).
In December, the platform—which was launched in 2011 and saw more than 700 million hours of learning on it globally last year—had also released its Language Report for 2021. The findings from this year-end report noted that Korean was one of the fastest growing languages in India. This rise was attributed to the fact that Indians have been tuning in to more Korean entertainment and listening to more K-pop. While close to 40% of the respondents in the year-end report said they were studying a new language, the respondents also stated that they would be interested in learning an Indian language, showcasing the need to branch out and seek new opportunities but also stay connected to their roots.
The covid-19 pandemic has also had an impact on learning mediums, with virtual options gaining popularity among users. Respondents in the year-end report said they were most comfortable learning a new language from mobile applications and video tutorials. Physical classrooms were the next preferred medium of learning, followed by distance-learning language courses.