Hobbies play an important role in keeping our minds happier and healthier. The pandemic turned our worlds upside down and restrictions had an impact on what we could do and with whom. Research suggests many started looking into language learning – not just any language, either. Fictional fantasy languages have become increasingly popular and succeeded in improving mental health.
According to Preply, a platform connecting language learners with tutors around the world, fictional languages have increased in popularity during the pandemic. This is not an accident, as their research has highlighted the positive impact language learning and functional languages can have.
COVID-19 has been difficult for many people. According to Institute for Fiscal Studies data, mental health has worsened on average by 8.1% as a result of the pandemic. Lockdowns and restrictions stripped away a lot of our daily structures.
Many hobbies became almost impossible to do and meeting people was out of the question. But humans need things to do. If we don’t feel connected to other people or things, we can end up feeling isolated. And fictional worlds and languages can offer us something to do.
The power of fictional worlds
Science fiction hasn’t always had a positive image. Many people consider the super fans as geeks and look down on people who spend a lot of time in these fantasy worlds. But science fiction and fantasy can offer a lot to those engaging with them.
When you look beyond the weird looking characters of Star Wars or the violence in the Games of Thrones, you find complex and rich situations, characters and scenarios. Fantasy worlds deal with many serious issues and engage readers with familiar struggles and lessons.
But the unfamiliar and even whimsical surroundings can make it easier to digest these issues. You get a brief escape from the world around you, even if the stories or characters feel familiar.
The pandemic gave a lot of anxiety to many people. Many people were worried about the health of their loved ones, as well as their own. On top of that, you were stripped of the ability to go about your normal lives. But fictional worlds could provide a respite from the scary outside world.
As Preply’s research shows, fictional worlds offer more than just books and TV shows for fans to consume. These stories are so rich and full of detail they have even developed languages with real grammatical rules and regulations. You aren’t just a passive consumer of these worlds. You can become part of them by understanding the languages behind the people who are in these stories.
In essence, learning a fictional language offers another way to connect with the fantasy world. It can help people feel closer to the characters. It can teach them more about the culture and customs within those worlds. At a time when most of us felt disconnected, fictional languages offered a way to connect with new worlds and people.
The benefits of learning a language
A Telegraph article from 2018 wrote about the many benefits of bilingualism. The article pointed out recent research showing how speaking more than one language could result in faster stroke recovery and delayed onset of dementia. The article went on to ask if the human brain was ever meant to speak a single language. Perhaps our brains are feeling at their best when they are engaged in different languages.
Studies have also highlighted the effectiveness of languages in treating depression. A 2018 study showed that singing lullabies in different languages in mother-and-baby groups reduced the symptoms of post-natal depression by 35% six weeks after giving birth. The recovery rate was much higher than with mothers who took part in creative play sessions or even mindfulness interventions.
The act of learning is also good for mental health. Learning a new skill can help with concentration, motivation and confidence. When you are locked in your house, having something structured to do can be a big boost to wellbeing. You can look forward to that next language lesson and gain confidence when you notice your skills improving.
Fictional languages build communities
The above highlights the benefits of learning a fictional language. You are combining the benefits of immersing yourself in fictional worlds with the benefits of learning a new language. You are putting together two things that can in their unique ways boost your mental health.
Learning a fictional language isn’t difficult these days because of technology. Language learning apps make it easy to learn languages wherever you are. When you are learning a fictional language, you can have a quick lesson right before you catch a movie. This can ensure you have just the right balance of effective learning and having fun.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg.
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