Having a penpal has been used to great effect by journalists as a way of learning a new language. Not only can you develop a very strong grasp of the vocabulary and grammar, but you are also likely to gain a thorough understanding of the culture of your penpal’s country. Engaging in regular written exchanges over a long period of time can also have a positive impact on your cognitive and social skills.
The cognitive benefits of writing by hand
Despite the ever-increasing developments in communication-based technology, there is something to be said for sticking to the old-fashioned form of communicating with your penpal: writing letters by hand. With the option to use Onlinestamp to print postage stamps online, the process is simpler than ever before and you can reach people all over the globe who might have limited online resources. What is more, science shows that the latter is good for the brain, boosting neural interactions within it and helping you learn in the process. The latter is partly due to the fact that writing by hand forces you to slow down and engage more fully with what you are writing compared to texting or using a keyboard.
Being a penpal encourages you to become aware of other perspectives
By engaging in handwritten ‘conversations’, you are made more aware of other people’s daily circumstances and points of view. This is certainly the case when your penpal lives under contrasting conditions to your own – whether that be the political situation in their country, or the cultural customs which influence their life, or the personal experiences that they have been through. Fostering this sensitivity towards others and focusing less on yourself can only be a good thing for your personal development, as well as your appreciation of another culture.
An effective use of peer learning
By having a penpal, you are engaging in peer learning: collaborating with a fellow ‘student’ in order to gain a greater understanding of a subject. The benefits are twofold. Firstly, penpals can correct or explain errors in the letters, helping their peer hone their understanding of the language, build vocabulary and apply their learning in the next letter. Secondly, the native speaker can develop the ability to explain things clearly, consolidating their own understanding of their mother tongue as a result.
Penpals: an age-old practice that still has a place
Having a penpal in the conventional sense might seem like an old-fashioned method of communicating. However, the different ways in which it can benefit language learning and cultural understanding make it a very worthwhile practice. It may take longer to write and receive messages from one another, but this can help us to become more patient, which can only be a good thing.