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It’s Brain Awareness Week 15th-21st March, and language learning has spiked during lockdown. This could be down to a number of factors – quite possibly because of the “Netflix effect”, certainly in my home we’ve been watching Call My Agent, Lupin, Torn and The Break and of course, wanting to educate ourselves.  Also, when we currently can’t  travel, why have people turned toward languages now?


A recent survey in 2020, from the British Council found that:


  • 66% of UK adults did not appreciate benefits of studying a foreign language when they were at school


  • 64% wish they had kept up the foreign language they studied and 58% regret not spending more time studying


  • 10% of UK adults tried learning a language during the first lockdown period, with smartphone apps the most popular study method


  • 66% think languages should be compulsory at primary school and 79% at secondary school


  • Spanish, French and Mandarin Chinese considered the top three most important languages for young people to learn.


The benefits of learning a language have been documented in a number of scientific papers and Thomas H. Bak, a researcher at the University of Edinburgh wrote a blog in the BMJ about the impact of language lessons and how learning can protect against dementia.

He writes “It might come as a surprise to many, but one of the mental activities best documented in this context is bilingualism: the ability to communicate in more than one language. Bilinguals develop dementia 4-5 years later and are twice as likely to recover cognitively from stroke than monolinguals. They show slower cognitive ageing, even if controlled for differences in childhood intelligence. And these effects are not confined to those who learned their languages early in their life and mastered them perfectly: a positive effect of language learning on attentional switching was detected already after a one-week intensive language course and persisted nine month later in those who practised five hours or more per week”.

Here at Hollicom, two of the team are learning French, our CFO Steve Simpson and myself and we’re lucky to manage the social media for our client, Ruth Allan, who is the founder of Speak Out with Confidence

From her base in Edinburgh, Ruth’s small business delivers  French, German, Spanish and Italian lessons and  the confidence to speak well.  Each course is tailored to the individual’s needs and interests, moving away from traditional textbook learning and focusing on speaking and understanding. As part of each 10-week course, there is an optional trip to Europe to put everything into practice.

Ruth was recently quoted in the Sunday Post about the growth of interest in all things French.

I’m learning French for my brain health, for the fact I love all things French and perhaps I’ll be able to watch Part 2 of Lupin this summer, without the subtitles!

Doigts croisés !

Heather Suttie is Creative Director at Hollicom.

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