Students learn Spanish through the Sunshine Club at Echo Centre. You’re never too old to be a student. SUBMITTED PHOTO

SENIORS: Alberni seniors learn Spanish with Sunshine Club

You’re never too old to be a student

BY ORLANDO DELANO

Special to the News

According to physiological studies, speaking two or more languages is a great asset to the cognitive process. “The brains of bilingual people operate differently than single language speakers, and these differences offer several mental benefits”, says Anne Merrit, a Canadian teacher, writer, and editor.

Here in Port Alberni seniors have the opportunity to benefit from this process as they get back to their books and brush up their skills while learning a new language.

The Sunshine Club offers such an opportunity to its members by having Spanish lessons available at regular weekly sessions. These lessons have been in existence for more than a dozen years.

Spanish has become the second most spoken language with almost half a billion speakers world wide.

“No doubt that people who learn another language keep their brain active. I am at an age where I keep trying to use my brain, so I read, play games in my tablet and do some research in my PC, and now, I am getting back at learning Spanish which keeps me more active mentally,” says Arleen Hoffman. She is one of 15-plus seniors who attend the Spanish sessions and does the coordination of this program on behalf of the Sunshine Club.

Other studies liken the brain to a muscle, because it functions better with exercise. This means that the learning of another language involves memorizing rules and vocabulary which helps strengthen that mental ¨muscle¨. The same studies also suggest that multiple language speakers do better at remembering lists or sequences and are better at observing their surroundings. They are more adept at focusing on relevant information and editing out the irrelevant. “They’re also better at spotting misleading information.”

“I find it interesting to see where Spanish words and English words sometimes share meaning, or mean something quite different. Many languages are rich in colour, subtlety,” says one of the students. “It is also interesting to learn unique phrasing of one language. My favourite is ‘dar a luz’: ‘give the light’, when one gives birth”, she adds.

In addition to the physiological value that the learning of a new language implies, particularly Spanish, there are other practical benefits, such as communication when going on trips beyond our boundaries. As we know, millions of Canadians and Europeans enjoy vacations in Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America, where over 90 per cent of the population speak this language. Thus, seeking information, speaking and interacting with host people become essential.

“After a trip to Cuba, one of my goals was to learn Spanish,” says another student. “I remember when I was vacationing with my husband I was wanting to express myself with the locals, not only I was trying to look for information about tourism, places of interest, but to learn more about their life and customs. All we did was use hand signals! How frustrating!”

Arleen also says why she decided to learn Spanish: “Years ago, I was working for Western Union in the United States where many customers who called spoke Spanish.

“The company insisted that the customers needed to spell the Spanish words or have someone who spoke English to call. I decided to enroll in a conversational Spanish class being held at the community college. I thought it would help me as well as the customers.

“They were so pleased when I told them I knew the words and they didn’t have to spell them for me. Very polite people.”

The Spanish lessons are held in the basement of Abbeyfield on a bi-weekly basis at no cost for the students (as long as they are members of the Sunshine Club).

“Meet other people who are open to new experiences, willing to look a little foolish, make mistakes, laugh at life”! an advice from a senior student.

Español?, ¡Sí, por supuesto!

Just Posted

Three strong earthquakes reported off Vancouver Island

The quakes, all measuring more than 6.0 on the richter scale, were about 260 kilometres west of Tofino

Mother passes SD70 trustee torch to daughter in Port Alberni

Jane Jones loses after one term, but proud of her daughter Connie Watts

ELECTION 2018: Sharie Minions named Port Alberni mayor

Haggard, Solda, Washington, Poon, Paulson and Corbeil named councillors

Four incumbents re-elected to School District 70 in Port Alberni

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District board will have a new look

2018 municipal election: Few surprises on Vancouver Island

16 incumbent mayors will continue in their positions for four more years

Canada Post strikes leaves small shops in the lurch as holidays approach: CFIB

Rotating strikes began in Victoria, Edmonton, Halifax and Windsor

BCHL alumni has NHL jersey retired by Anaheim Ducks

Paul Kariya played with the Penticton Vees from 1990-1992

CFL playoff picture still muddled heading into weekend action

League revealed last week no fewer than 64 potential playoff permutations

New monitoring of vessel noise impact on endangered whales announced

Federal government to monitor underwater ship and mammal noise in B.C.’s Salish Sea

Used election signs could serve as emergency shelters, B.C. candidate says

Langley Township council hopeful wants to build one-person foul weather shelters for homeless

Liberals write off $6.3 billion in loans as part of money never to be collected

That includes student loans and a $2.6 billion write off that came through Export Development Canada

Trudeau, McKenna to announce compensation for federal carbon plan

Provinces that don’t have a carbon price of at least $20 per tonne of emissions will have Ottawa’s plan forced on them

UPDATE: American rapper killed in skydiving accident

Man, 34, dies in skydiving accident Saturday near Westwold, between Vernon and Kamloops

Most Read