The main reasons why a person decides to learn a language are generally related to work, study or practical reasons of interpersonal communication, perhaps resulting from a trip. In the event that a person decides to learn a language for pure personal pleasure, apparently without real utility in the everyday world, the mind is more predisposed and learning more effective. What makes the difference are the reasons behind learning: if learning a language becomes part of the “things to do” drawer then there will be no particular prospect of success, not beyond the objective set by the outside world; if, on the other hand, learning a language becomes part of the “wellness” drawerpersonal then learning will proceed exponentially, as the effort employed will not be perceived as such. It is no coincidence that we tend to advise people to do what they are most inclined towards in life, since it is passion, or pleasure in general, that guide the individual towards excellence and success.
But what are the real benefits of pleasure in learning in general?
First of all, it is necessary to point out that there is no learning without any type of emotions involved: in fact, as is known, “emotion affects the learning process as it acts as a guide in making decisions and in the formulation of ideas” (Lagreca 2017) . If the emotions are negative and learning occurs by force, the person will have difficulty processing information and in particular saving it in long-term memory; this is because the brain tends to discard inputs considered “useless” for growth and future experiences. On the contrary, if emotions are positive, “they contribute to learning successes, to the internalization of knowledge and meanings, the improvement of the personal experience of the adult who learns and who transfers and applies the results of what he has learned in his own professional sphere by involving his emotional resources “(Stefanini 2013, 19). In this case, positive emotions favor the saving of information in long-term memory, information that the brain perceives as indispensable for well-being.
If pleasure facilitates learning in general, how does it affect language learning in particular ? What makes learning a language unique ?
A linguistic system that the mind acquires is comparable to an ad-hoc installed operating system for certain purposes (pleasure or necessity of any kind) and, as such, it has its own operating rules that must be learned slowly thanks to constant exercise . Since it is an entire operating system and not simply a file containing information about a certain subject, the language can be considered not only the goal, but above all the means of learning.
By the phrase “we learn English” in truth we mean “we learn something in English”, because English does not exist without a topic that can be talked about. Language, therefore, influences the entire conceptual system of the individual , which is enriched thanks to a new vision of the world bearing new concepts and references, perhaps completely unknown initially. Not surprisingly, “Freud had unequivocally sensed that language is in itself deeply metaphorical and directly connected to all the different components of human intelligence understood not only as a rational logic” (Salmon 2012, 27), an intuition that has opened wide new frontiers of study of the parts of the human brain used for language, emphasizing the hypothesis, later considered the most truthful, according to which language is the result of an interconnection of impulses coming from different parts of the brain.
If the passion proves to be lasting and the momentary positive emotions are consolidated, then learning will be guided by the strongest feeling in the world, love, for the language or for something directly connected to that language, an inexhaustible source of inspiration and success that is not slow in bringing benefits not only on a mental level, but also on a real level. This feeling, from the biological point of view, does nothing but facilitate the aforementioned interconnections by speeding up the internalization of another way of thinking, destined to bring exponential improvements to the whole mental system.