Published : Jul 11, 2019

Global CEO: Language Learning Good for Business and Good for the Brain

Paul Melhus is an international traveler who wanted to learn a new language, and for good reason. Melhus is CEO and founder of ToursByLocals, a Vancouver-based company that arranges tours for world travelers in 156 countries, using more than 3,000 guides who actually live in the cities being visited.

He enroled in Berlitz to learn Spanish so he could communicate with some of his employees in their own language. Melhus was so satisfied with the results, the program and his teacher, he upgraded with a much longer course after his first expired.

“We have a large office in Buenos Aires,” he said. “Although they are all fluent in English, I want to be able to speak with my staff in Spanish; I think they appreciate the effort.”

The Berlitz Method has helped in his second-language learning success, but he also heaps praise on his instructor.

“Maria (his teacher) is very encouraging,” he explained. “She is very attentive and listens closely to what I’m getting, and what I’m not getting.”

He also said the Berlitz Vancouver language center has been helpful.

“They’re flexible when I need to cancel a class or add one,” Melhus said. “There has never been a problem.”

He now makes it a point to speak only Spanish when in a Spanish-speaking country. As do other language learners, Melhus has noticed that people are helpful when he tries to speak in their native language.

“They are very appreciative, even when my grammar isn’t so great,” he said. “Sometimes they will speak more slowly or avoid slang.”

He also declines when someone offers to speak English, explaining he would rather speak in Spanish.

Melhus has also noticed another benefit. He believes that learning another language has also been good for his “brain health.”

“I feel sharper,” he said.

His belief is spot on. A wide variety of research studies show that learning a second language is a great brain strengthening “exercise”. Results include intelligence, improved memory, concentration, and a decreased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Children can also benefit from language learning. Rather than confuse children and delay learning, as originally thought, research now shows that learning a second language can improve cognitive ability; also that bilingual children are more likely to do better in intelligence tests, excel in school, are more worldly and understand more about other cultures.

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