Foreign language learning as a stress therapy

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einzelne
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Foreign language learning as a stress therapy

Postby einzelne » Mon Aug 02, 2021 5:23 am

Cioran, the notorious philosophical pessimist, claims that learning a foreign language is the best way to fight against depression and melancholy:

Il n’y a rien de tel qu’un livre de grammaire pour nous aider a vaincre la mélancolie.
La grammaire est le meilleur antidote contre le cafard.

S’appliquer à un idiome étranger, fouiller dans des dictionnaires, poursuivre passionnément des vétilles, comparer plusieurs grammaires de la même langue, faire des listes de mots ou de tournures qui n’aient rien à voir avec nos humeurs – autant de moyens de surmonter le cafard. – Pendant l’Occupation, je portais sur moi des listes de mots anglais que j’apprenais par cœur dans le métro ou en faisant la queue devant les bureaux de tabac ou les épiceries.


(This is from his Cahiers. Sorry for the original but I don't have access to the English translation, if there's one)
This quote seems to be rather relevant in our COVID times although my personal experience is completely the opposite: I find it harder to learn languages now.
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Re: Foreign language learning as a stress therapy

Postby Gordafarin2 » Mon Aug 02, 2021 8:25 am

I think any hobby or practice that enables me to see my progress over time is very good for holding off my depression. I've seen that with languages, and I've also seen that with knitting - stitch by stitch, eventually you will make a sweater. Word by word, you will understand more and more. When you feel stagnant and hopeless - it's good to feel like you are working toward something.

Of course something being good for me and easy for me are two different things, especially in times of poor mental health. I have plenty of coping strategies (exercise, diet, meds, mindfulness, etc) that all go out of the window as soon as the black dog comes howling. In the middle of a depressive episode, doing what once was simple becomes all but insurmountable.
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Re: Foreign language learning as a stress therapy

Postby alaart » Mon Aug 02, 2021 11:12 am

I started language learning as a counter measure against depression and life problems at the end of 2015, and it helped me. You get a learning routine, you have something to do instead of pondering about your past life. You are exposed to new things, which stimulates your curiosity and gets you out of your box so you might try new things. The social aspect of meeting new, like minded people, either from a class or foreigners is also very therapeutic. It's also a lot of fun and in comparison to other things relatively fast-rewarding, and you feel that if you try your best you can achieve something which might give you confidence to tackle other problems.

Anyway, I kind of overdosed on that idea I think, so I am taking a break :roll: , in the end you still have to solve your problems so it shouldn't be the sole solution, otherwise it is a language escape. But I think making it part of your coping process is a good idea. Like said above, also works with other hobbies, but some hobbies tend to be less social and interactive, so in my life languages had a bigger impact than the other things I tried (programming, chess, guitar, composition).
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Re: Foreign language learning as a stress therapy

Postby Le Baron » Mon Aug 02, 2021 1:25 pm

Sometimes it feels like it's more likely to cause stress than relieve it. At that point I do something else which actually relieves stress, like garden work. I suppose it depends on what the end goal is. With me it's become a desire for active communication somewhat more than reading, so this:
S’appliquer à un idiome étranger, fouiller dans des dictionnaires, poursuivre passionnément des vétilles, comparer plusieurs grammaires de la même langue, faire des listes de mots ou de tournures qui n’aient rien à voir avec nos humeurs...

rough trans: 'doubling-down on a foreign idiom, digging through dictionaries, passionately pursuing trivia, comparing multiple grammars from the same language, making word lists or 'turns of phrase' that have nothing to do with your moods...'

..can be amusing if I want to while away some time, but trying to work out idioms and digging through dictionaries (paper or electronic) is often more of a chore than a pleasure at times. Comparing grammars is a waste of life! Word lists? Okay, I do that a bit. But no, digging the garden, fast cycling and cleaning (instant results!) are more effective.
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Re: Foreign language learning as a stress therapy

Postby gsbod » Mon Aug 02, 2021 5:23 pm

I loved that quote, although it's not something I can relate to at all! Maybe there is, potentially, something meditative about working with vocabulary lists or doing grammar work. Or maybe it just provided a suitable level of distraction in an era before smart phones.

I'd say all the vocabulary and the grammar work is worth it for the sheer pleasure of being able to use the language afterwards, which is most definitely a mood lifter.
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Re: Foreign language learning as a stress therapy

Postby einzelne » Mon Aug 02, 2021 7:59 pm

Le Baron wrote:Word lists? Okay, I do that a bit. But no, digging the garden, fast cycling and cleaning (instant results!) are more effective.


I find it soothing to write new words down. Handwriting, since we barely practice it nowadays, almost became a form of meditation. But, unless I review the list of new words and expressions, it's basically useless.
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Re: Foreign language learning as a stress therapy

Postby luke » Mon Aug 02, 2021 9:37 pm

einzelne wrote:
Le Baron wrote:Word lists? Okay, I do that a bit.


I find it soothing to write new words down. Handwriting, since we barely practice it nowadays, almost became a form of meditation.

Cursive or ?

I always admire good penmanship. One of the more important figures in my life did caligraphy. Very cool.
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Re: Foreign language learning as a stress therapy

Postby sherbert » Mon Aug 02, 2021 10:13 pm

Broadly speaking, learning languages has been compensating and stress-relieving for me---rhythmically writing in Persian, for example, is very pleasurable, but on the other hand I have found that studying Mandarin can be quite stressful---all totally self-imposed of course. Obviously it is not like clearing a real-life mine field, but it is certainly more stressful than speculating on cryptocurrency, which is another "hobby" of mine.

I am quite mentally lazy, so it is totally uncharacteristic of me to want to go up against the crushing weight of the Chinese language, but I have never abandoned it, even though I get a headache just thinking about it (not trying to be melodramatic here). Maybe I am just too arrogant to adjust my expectations to the reality of the language, and as a result, I am aggravated, thus the headaches. Even though I watch and understand native content, and native speakers have voluntarily complimented my spoken Chinese, I know they could easily humiliate me if they wanted to, which is not exactly comforting or comfortable to think about, and certainly not therapeutic.
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Re: Foreign language learning as a stress therapy

Postby einzelne » Mon Aug 02, 2021 10:54 pm

luke wrote:Cursive or ?


We all study cursive writing in Russian schools. I'm not perfect at it though. But during these sessions I tried to write slowly and accurately on index cards. Again, almost zero effectiveness in terms of vocabulary retention (because I didn't review them) but it was nice to do it for a change (instead of typing or copying and pasting, as usual).
Last edited by einzelne on Wed Aug 04, 2021 1:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Foreign language learning as a stress therapy

Postby Sumisu » Tue Aug 03, 2021 4:11 am

As much as I'd like to believe this, I think there are all sorts of things that are better for stress therapy than language learning. I personally would put playing an instrument at the top of the list, provided that you play as a hobby, rather than for career or competition reasons. And I don't just mean strumming three guitar chords over and over I mean, like with language learning, actually trying to improve at your instrument. With both language learning and music, it takes some pain to progress. But playing music is in another league from language learning when it comes to stress therapy. In the best case, you not only reduce stress but climb right up to the gates of Valhalla and enter a state of ecstasy when you "master" a new piece. And the great thing is, it's not a one-time rush: you feel it every time (or at least most of the time) you play the piece.

Language learning is great, I love it. But if I'm to experience melancholy, I hope that I sit at the piano, rather than leaf through my Japanese dictionary, if I want to feel better.
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