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Factor Analysis of Subjective Well-Being Sustainability through Foreign Language Learning in Healthy Older Individuals

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Healthy aging is one of the most important aspects of human life as it can significantly improve its quality. Therefore, it is necessary to promote successful aging as a significant and important part of maintaining physical and mental well-being in the elderly. One of the strategies to enhance the elderly’s well-being may be also foreign language learning. The purpose of this study is to compare and discuss what effect foreign language learning (FLL) might have on subjective well-being among healthy older individuals in the Czech Republic and Poland, using factor analysis as the primary statistical method. The research sample consisted of two experimental groups of seniors; one from the Czech Republic (n = 92) and another from Poland (n = 100). The main research methods included a questionnaire survey and factor analysis. The factor analysis revealed the four significant factors and their correlations with demographic variables, whose results showed the effect of FLL on seniors’ subjective well-being. In conclusion, learning a foreign language at an older age seems to be one of the key strategies to maintain a subjective feeling of happiness at a relatively high level in elderly people without necessary pharmacological intervention.
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Sustainability 2021, 13, 1590. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13031590 www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability
Article
Factor Analysis of Subjective Well-Being Sustainability
through Foreign Language Learning in Healthy
Older Individuals
Blanka Klimova 1,*, Marcel Pikhart 1, Szymon Dziuba 2 and Anna Cierniak-Emerych 2
1 Department of Applied Linguistics, Faculty of Informatics and Management, University of Hradec Kralove,
500 03 Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic; marcel.pikhart@uhk.cz
2 Department of Labour, Capital and Innovation, Faculty of Business and Management, Wroclaw University
of Economics and Business, 53-345 Wrocław, Poland; anna.cierniak-emerych@ue.wroc.pl (A.C.-E.);
szymon.dziuba@ue.wroc.pl (S.D.)
* Correspondence: blanka.klimova@uhk.cz
Abstract: Healthy aging is one of the most important aspects of human life as it can significantly
improve its quality. Therefore, it is necessary to promote successful aging as a significant and
important part of maintaining physical and mental well-being in the elderly. One of the strategies
to enhance the elderly’s well-being may be also foreign language learning. The purpose of this study
is to compare and discuss what effect foreign language learning (FLL) might have on subjective
well-being among healthy older individuals in the Czech Republic and Poland, using factor analysis
as the primary statistical method. The research sample consisted of two experimental groups of
seniors; one from the Czech Republic (n = 92) and another from Poland (n = 100). The main research
methods included a questionnaire survey and factor analysis. The factor analysis revealed the four
significant factors and their correlations with demographic variables, whose results showed the
effect of FLL on seniors’ subjective well-being. In conclusion, learning a foreign language at an older
age seems to be one of the key strategies to maintain a subjective feeling of happiness at a relatively
high level in elderly people without necessary pharmacological intervention.
Keywords: foreign language learning; well-being; L2 acquisition; second language acquisition;
psycholinguistics; language learning; societal sustainability; individual resilience; aging; healthy
aging
1. Introduction
Currently, the number of older population groups is rapidly rising, especially in
higher-income countries worldwide, and this demographic trend will probably continue
in the next decades as well. Moreover, people at the age of 60+ years will form 35% of the
total population in Europe by 2050 [1]. In addition, the majority of people in this age group
suffer from mental or neurological disorders [2], which consequently impacts older
people’s performance of activities of daily living and worsens their quality of life.
Healthy aging is one of the most important aspects of human life as it can improve
its quality significantly. Therefore, it is necessary to promote successful aging as a
significant and important part of maintaining physical and mental well-being in the
elderly [3]. As research [4–6] indicates, one of such nonpharmacological strategies
enhancing the elderly’s well-being (i.e., the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy)
may be also foreign language learning. Foreign language learning has not been
traditionally considered to be an intervention method to improve well-being and quality
of life. However, very recent research [4–6] proves that this activity can be very efficient
in improving one’s quality of life, particularly of the elderly. As Matsumoto [7] claims,
Citation: Klimova, B.; Pikhart, M.;
Dziuba, S.; Cierniak-Emerych, A.
Factor Analysis of Subjective
Wellbeing Sustainability through
Foreign Language Learning in
Healthy Older Individuals.
Sustainability 2021, 13, 1590.
https://doi.org/10.3390/
su13031590
Academic Editor: Amador Jesús
Lara Sánchez, Ramón Chacón
Cuberos
Received: 12 January 2021
Accepted: 28 January 2021
Published: 2 February 2021
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Copyright: © 2021 by the authors.
Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
This article is an open access article
distributed under the terms and
conditions of the Creative Commons
Attribution (CC BY) license
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses
/by/4.0/).
Sustainability 2021, 13, 1590 2 of 13
foreign language learning is rewarding for seniors since it enriches their sense of meaning
in their life. Furthermore, their motivation to learn a foreign language is high and
especially intrinsic. They do not need any credits or diplomas to succeed; they simply
study for the feeling of enjoyment and savoring and because they want to socialize with
their peers [7,8]. Nevertheless, pleasant atmosphere and enhanced confidence may then
also boost their cognitive gains [9], since research findings have proved that the aging
brain is a dynamic set of biological features that can plastically reorganize against
pathological decline [10]. In addition, research studies on bilingualism confirm that those
knowing another language can delay the onset of dementia by several years in comparison
with those who know only their native language [11–13]. This is a crucial finding as the
epidemy of cognitive decline impairments in older age has recently gained its momentum
due to the increased number of the elderly in our societies. To maintain our
competitiveness and sustainability, it is crucial to look for various strategies that enable
societal and individual resilience.
The purpose of this study is to compare and discuss what effect foreign language
learning (FLL) might have on subjective well-being among healthy older individuals in
the Czech Republic (CR) and Poland (PL) by using factor analysis as the primary statistical
method. This research provides a systematic approach to the issues that are relevant and
urgent as it can lead to societal sustainability and bring an alternative, i.e.,
nonpharmacological approach, to enhanced well-being in elderly people. As western
society is aging very fast and the demographic trend towards elderly society is inevitable,
it is crucial to create sustainable strategies towards societal resilience, and FLL can be one
of the successful ones. Moreover, this research complements and develops research
currently underway into healthy or successful aging.
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Research Sample
The research sample consisted of two experimental groups of seniors; one from the
Czech Republic (n = 92) and another from Poland (n = 100). Their age structure ranged
from 55 years to 80+ years. All individuals were healthy seniors without any serious
physical or mental impairments.
The age limit that was set for this survey was 55 years and older as this age is
generally considered as the earliest retirement age. The upper limit was not set and some
of the participants were older than 80 years. The age was not the most important
parameter for the research, but it was only used as a reference point to have elderly
respondents. The respondents were Czech or Polish citizens enrolled in the program of
the University of the Third Age at the two universities based in the Czech Republic and
Poland. All the respondents were enrolled in the language courses provided by these
universities. All the courses were on the same, or very similar, language proficiency,
according to the standardized and accepted Common European Framework Reference for
Languages (CEFR) [14] corresponding to A2 to B1 level of language. The courses were
held once a week for 90 min in two semesters corresponding to the academic year of the
university, i.e., from October to December and from February to March. There was no
significant change in the number of participants during the course, only a few individuals
dropped out of the course for personal reasons.
2.2. Questionnaire Survey
The survey was conducted in May and June 2020 as an online questionnaire
distributed to the participants of the survey via Google platform. The participants were
notified to take part in the research by an email sent to them with a link to this
questionnaire. All the participants of the research expressed their consent with the
questionnaire by taking part in it; it was not obligatory, however, all the potential
participants replied by answering the questionnaire.
Sustainability 2021, 13, 1590 3 of 13
The questionnaire consisted of a modified version of a well-known and established
questionnaire widely used for testing satisfaction with language courses and other aspects
of language education connected to non-language issues. The questionnaire was created
by Woll and Wei [15], and this research utilized just the questions connected to subjective
feelings of the well-being of the participants of the language courses. The questionnaire
was also supplemented with further questions connected to the satisfaction with the
course and tutors; however, these questions were intended as filler questions and they did
not have anything in connection with the research conducted. The questionnaire was
created as concise as possible, taking into consideration the age of the participants and
their possible attention span.
The questionnaire was entitled A satisfaction survey with the language classes so that
the participants did not have any idea we were focusing on their subjective feelings of
well-being. The surveys were conducted both in Czech and Polish, for Czech and Polish
participants, respectively. It started with a short introduction and there were also a few
questions regarding the age of the participants, the language studies, a town, city or
village they have a permanent address in. The questionnaire itself contained 20 items to
be answered on a standardized Likert Scale with six points as follows: Strongly agree,
Agree, Agree a little, Disagree a little, Disagree, and Strongly disagree. The last question
of the questionnaire was an open question about the satisfaction with the course; however,
it again operated as a filler question and did not create any relevance for the research at
all.
The questionnaire was available online through Google Forms, and all the data
collected through this form were anonymous. There was no name, address or any other
personal identifier collected. Each response only had a data stamp, fully anonymized. No
IP address was collected either. All the contacted respondents answered the request and
filled in the questionnaire. They reacted almost immediately, and the return of the
questionnaires was very satisfactory, leading to high representability of the research as all
the participants of the courses responded.
The questions focusing on the well-being were randomly mixed with those dealing
with general satisfaction with the course; therefore, the respondents did not and could not
imply that the research focused on their subjective feelings of well-being. The researchers
were, however, not interested in their satisfaction with the course or the tutor. The only
aim of this data collection was to obtain the data related to the subjective feeling of well-
being, possibly connected to foreign language learning. This aspect was very important
to eliminate the bias of the respondents if they had known the reason for this research. All
the results collected were then analyzed by factor analysis.
2.3. Statistical Analysis
In the first stage, descriptive statistics and frequency distributions for demographic
variables and those describing the level of foreign language learning were calculated.
Next, average scores, deviations and medians were established for individual statements
concerning the effect of language learning on well-being. Next, tests of intergroup
differences were calculated by verifying whether the Czechs and the Poles differed in their
responses to specific questions (Student’s t-test for two independent groups or the Mann–
Whitney U test if the variances in both groups differed significantly).
Then, factor analysis was performed to reduce the number of variables to several
dimensions. The identified factors were used in the comparative analysis of the effect of
foreign language learning on psychosocial well-being in Poland and the Czech Republic.
The significance level was set at p < 0.05, and the analysis was performed using the
statistical software package PQ Stat 1.8.0 (PQ Stat Software, Poznan, Poland).
Sustainability 2021, 13, 1590 4 of 13
2.4. Research Questions
The research questions were formulated to obtain answers to the key ideas behind
the research activity. They are as follows: First, what are the key factors affecting the sen-
iors´ subjective well-being connected to foreign language learning? Second, is there any
correlation between demographic variables and the key factors influencing well-being
connected to foreign language learning? All these questions are answered in the results
section and further developed in the context of other research in the discussion.
3. Results
3.1. Demographic Data
Figure 1 below illustrates the age structure and its distribution in both groups of re-
spondents. The results show that most of the Poles (62%) were at the age between 55 and
60 years followed by the age group of 61–65 years. The age structure of the Czech seniors
was more balanced, with the median being 66–70 years.
Figure 1. Age structure of the Czech and Polish seniors.
As for the sex, in the CR, the sample consisted of 35.9% males and 64.1% females,
while in PL, the sample was comprised of 40% males and 60% females.
Regarding education, most of the Poles (92%) had university education, while only
58.7% of the Czech seniors had attained university education and 40.2% had attained sec-
ondary education. Only a few had primary education in both groups of the respondents
(Figure 2, below).
Sustainability 2021, 13, 1590 5 of 13
Figure 2. Education structure of the Czech and Polish seniors.
The data further reveal how many languages seniors were learning at the time of the
survey. The results indicate that the majority of people in both groups were learning only
one language (70% of seniors in PL and 67% of seniors in the CR).
3.2. The Effect of Language Learning on the Well-Being of Respondents: The Basic Approach
Table 1 below describes 20 statements on seniors’ attitude towards foreign language
learning. The statements in bold are the statements with which the respondents in both
countries agreed most and those with which the respondents agreed least. The results also
reveal that the Poles and the Czechs differed in their assessment of several positive and
one negative aspect of language learning. The Poles appreciated each positive aspect more
than the Czechs but also found foreign language learning more stressful (statement 15).
Table 1. Descriptive statistics for statements assessed on a scale of 1 to 6 (1-I absolutely disagree, 6-I absolutely agree).
Statement Country
Mean
Standard
Deviation Median
Significance of Differences (Student’s t-
test/Mann–Whitney U-test)
1. Learning a new language improves my con-
centration.
CZ 4.65 0.99 4 U = 2684.5
p = 0.0001 *** PL 5.38 0.76 6
2. Learning a new language improves my
memory.
CZ 4.80 1.06 4 Uv = 3279
p = 0.0002 *** PL 5.36 0.77 5.5
3. Learning a new language improves my at-
tention.
CZ 4.69 0.96 4 t = −3.764
p = 0.0002 *** PL 5.20 0.90 5
4. Learning a new language improves my
health.
CZ 4.13 0.94 4 t = −1.667
p = n.s. PL 4.38 1.12 4
5. Learning a new language improves my crea-
tivity.
CZ 4.42 0.99 4 t = −5.589
p = 0.000001 *** PL 5.16 0.84 5
6. Learning a new language helps me find new
friends.
CZ 4.70 0.99 4 U = 3177
p = 0.0001 *** PL 5.22 0.76 5
7. Learning a new language helps me under-
stand different cultures.
CZ 4.93 1.05 4 U = 3830
p = 0.03 * PL 5.27 0.75 5
8. Learning a new language helps me while
travelling.
CZ 5.26 1.05 6 t = −1.695
p = n.s. PL 5.49 0.80 6
9. Learning a new language helps me with
learning other things, too.
CZ 4.49 0.92 4 t = −5.162
p = 0.000001 ** PL 5.13 0.80 5
10. Learning a new language helps me while
looking for life motivation.
CZ 4.50 1.04 4 t = −1.138
p = n.s. PL 4.67 1.03 5
11. Learning a new language helps me with
finding the purpose of my life.
CZ 3.97 1.09 4 t = −2.869
p = 0.004 ** PL 4.45 1.23 4
1.1%
40.2%
58.7%
8.0%
92.0%
V OC A TI O NA L ,
P R I M A R Y
S E C O N D A R Y H I G H E R
E D U C AT I O N S T R U C T U R E I N
G R O U P S O F C Z E C H A N D P O L E S
Czechs Poles
Sustainability 2021, 13, 1590 6 of 13
12. Learning a new language is enjoyable. CZ 4.84 1.09 4 t = −1.379
p = n.s. PL 5.05 1.05 5
13. Learning a new language brings me per-
sonal satisfaction.
CZ 4.73 1.14 4 U = 3255.5
p = 0.0001 *** PL 5.31 0.79 5
14. Learning a foreign language brings me feel-
ings of happiness.
CZ 4.72 1.13 4 t = −2.452
p = 0.015 * PL 5.10 1.03 5
15. Learning a foreign language is stressful. CZ 2.43 1.23 2 t = −3.641
p = 0.0003 *** PL 3.13 1.40 3
16. Learning a new language does not bring
any benefits to me.
CZ 1.91 0.91 2 t = 0.564
p = n.s. PL 1.83 1.11 1
17. Learning a new language can have a nega-
tive impact on me.
CZ 1.64 0.72 2 U = 4381.5
p = n.s. PL 1.82 1.08 2
18. Learning a new
language occupies a lot of
my time.
CZ 2.93 2.93 3 t = −1.547
p = n.s. PL 3.21 1.27 3
19. Learning a new language is a positive moti-
vation for me.
CZ 4.63 1.11 4 t = −3.725
p = 0.0002 *** PL 5.18 0.94 5
20. Learning a new language will be
useful for
me in the future.
CZ 4.63 1.13 4 t = −3.617
p = 0.0003 *** PL 5.18 0.98 5
* statistically significant difference at p < 0.5, ** statistically significant difference at p < 0.01, *** statistically significant difference at
p < 0.001, n.s.-statistically not significant difference
3.3. Factor Analysis
In order to reduce 20 statements to fewer categories, the factor analysis was per-
formed and then new factors were used in the analysis on the effect of foreign language
learning on seniors’ well-being in comparative terms (Poland vs. the Czech Republic).
(a) The assumptions of the factor analysis were verified.
1. Does the reduction of dimensionality make sense?
The KMO coefficient (which compares partial correlations with the two-variable correla-
tion coefficients) was calculated. KMO = 0, 9, 03. KMO > 0.5 means that reducing multidi-
mensionality makes sense.
2. Are the variables correlated with each other?
Bartlett’s test χ² = 2349.82, p < 0.001
The variables are correlated with each other. Therefore, factor analysis for reducing the
number of variables is justified.
(b) An assumption was made about the number of isolated factors.
If the number of variables is 20 or more, it is recommended to adopt the Kaiser criterion.
This criterion assumes the inclusion of the components with eigenvalues >1.0 in the anal-
ysis. In this analysis, these will be 4 components (Table 2: eigenvalues).
(c) A cumulative percentage of the explained variance was calculated.
For four factors, the model explains 65.1% of the variance (Table 2—cumulative percent-
age of variance).
Table 2. Eigenvalues and percentage of explained variance for the model with four factors.
Factor
Eigenvalues
% Variance
Cumulative Eigenvalue
Cumulative % of Variance
1 8.751592 43.75796
2 1.866923 9.334617 10.61852 53.09258
3 1.326967 6.634837 11.94548 59.72741
4 1.072815 5.364076 13.0183 65.09149
(d) The correlation matrix was analyzed and factors were identified.
Four factors were identified based on factor loadings and factor content (Table 3, below).
Factor 1
Statements 2, 3, 12, 14, 19
2. Learning a new language improves my memory.
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3. Learning a new language improves my attention.
12. Learning a new language is enjoyable.
14. Learning a foreign language brings me feelings of happiness.
19. Learning a new language is a positive motivation for me.
Factor 2
Statements 15, 16, 17, 18
15. Learning a foreign language is stressful.
16. Learning a new language does not bring any benefits to me.
17. Learning a new language can have a negative impact on me.
18. Learning a new language occupies a lot of my time.
Factor 3
Statements 7, 20
7. Learning a new language helps me understand different cultures.
20. Learning a new language will be useful for me in the future.
Factor 4
Statements 11, 10
10. Learning a new language helps me while looking for life motivation.
11. Learning a new language helps me with finding the purpose of my life.
Table 3. Factor loads.
Variables
Factor loadings
Factor 1
Positive emotions and mental
abilities
(C1)
Factor 2
No benefit
(C2)
Factor 3
Future
(C3)
Factor 4
Motivation
(C4)
Factor 1
1. Concentration −0.725895
2. Memory −0.77291
3. Attention −0.775018
12. Pleasure −0.775248
13. Satisfaction −0.8336
14. Happiness −0.843787
Factor 2
15. Stressful −0.50427
16. No benefit −0.513325
17. Negative effect −0.704568
18. Time-consuming −0.573559
Factor 3
7. Understanding of
cultures 0.484063
20. Useful for the future 0.428006
Factor 4
10. Life motivation 0.352528
11. Life purpose 0.51503
In further analysis, the interpretation of <, > signs in the Tables below for factors 1, 2,
3 is reversed, because the factor loadings have negative values. The symbols of factors are
C1, C2, C3, C4.
e) Individual factors were named.
Factor 1: Positive emotions and mental abilities (C1)
Factor 2: No benefit (C2)
Factor 3: Future (C3)
Factor 4: Motivation (C4)
3.4. Analysis of Individual Demographic Variables and Characteristics of Language Learning
Sustainability 2021, 13, 1590 8 of 13
The analysis concerning age was conducted for the age groups that were studied in
both countries: 55–60 years (denoted with code 1 in Table 4), 61–65 years (code 2), 66–70
years (code 3).
The specific results of the analysis of the correlations between the perceived effects
of foreign language learning on well-being depending on age were as follows: among the
Czechs, the youngest group (55–60 years) significantly appreciates the factor positive
emotions and mental abilities (C1) more than the group aged 61–65 years, while the group
aged 61–65 years appreciates it significantly more than the group aged 66–70 years. In the
assessment of the positive effect of languages on future life (C3), the groups aged 55–60
years and 61–65 years differ from the group aged 66–70 by significantly higher assess-
ments. Consult Table 4 below.
Among Polish respondents, the analysis does not show any significant differences in
the assessment of individual factors depending on age.
Table 4. Comparison of differences in the assessment of factors depending on age.
Factor
Nationality Test H
p Differences between age groups
C1 CZ 12.93 0.001 * 1 < 2. 2 < 3
C1 PL 0.10 0.94
C2 CZ 5.35 0.069
C2 PL 0.01 0.995 -
C3 CZ 9.00 0.011 **
1 < 3. 2 < 3
C3 PL 4.83 0.089
C4 CZ 1.61 0.446
C4 PL 0.74 0.689
Explanation: * p < 0.01, ** p < 0.05. Age group denotation: 1: 55–60 years; 2: 61–65 years; 3: 66–70
years.
The analysis of the differences in the perceived effect of language learning on well-
being between the sexes revealed the following statistically significant relationships:
Among the Czech seniors, men feel the negative effects of language learning less than
women (C2), while Polish men appreciate pleasure and increased mental capacity less
than women (C1). There are no significant differences between the sexes in the assessment
of the other factors (Table 5).
Table 5. Comparison of differences in the assessment of factors depending on sex.
Factor Nationality U test p M vs. K
C1 CZ 4.46 0.108 M < K
PL 875.5 0.022 * M > K
C2 CZ 640 0.006 * M > K
PL 1136.5 0.657 M < K
C3 CZ 824 0.225 M < K
PL 1046.5 0.282 M < K
C4 CZ 936 0.763 M < K
PL 1055.5 0.311 M > K
Explanation: * p < 0.05, ** p < 0.01. Group denotation: M—men, K—women.
The relationship between the advantages of language learning and education in both
groups (Czechs and Poles) is similar. People with a lower level of education are more
likely to see no benefits than those with higher education (C2). Furthermore, people with
a lower level of education are less likely to see the advantages of language learning for
improving their future lives (Table 6).
Sustainability 2021, 13, 1590 9 of 13
Table 6. Comparison of differences in the assessment of factors depending on the level of educa-
tion.
Factor
Nationality
U test
p Secondary and Lower Education vs. Higher Education*
C1 CZ 950 0.807
PL 962 0.769
C2 CZ 701 0.021 *
S < H
PL 704 0.017 *
S < H
C3 CZ 710 0.026 *
S > H
PL 711 0.020 *
S > H
C4 CZ 903 0.530
PL 933 0.598
Explanation: * p < 0.05. Group denotation: S—secondary and lower education, H—higher educa-
tion. In the Czech group, people with lower levels of education than higher education are those
with secondary education, whereas in the group of Poles—with primary or vocational education,
people with higher education are those with bachelor’s or master’s degrees.
The analysis of the differences in perceived effects of foreign language learning on
well-being between the number of languages the respondents learnt at the time of the
survey revealed the following statistically significant relationships:
Among the Poles, learners of two languages and learners of three languages signifi-
cantly appreciate the factor of positive emotions and mental abilities (C1) more than learn-
ers of one language, while no differences in this respect were found in the Czech group.
Furthermore, Czech learners of two languages have less appreciation of the positive effect
of language learning on future life (C3) than learners of one or three languages. Consult
Table 7 below.
Table 7. Comparison of differences in the assessment of factors depending on the number of for-
eign languages learnt by the respondent at the time of the survey.
Factor
Nationality
Test H
p
Differences between groups of learners of different numbers
of languages
C1 CZ 4.457
0.107
PL 10.737
0.005 * 2 < 1. 3 < 1
C2 CZ 0.694
0.707
PL 0.523
0.770
C3 CZ 6.095
0.047 **
2 > 1. 2 > 3
PL 1.034
0.596
C4 CZ 1.071
0.585
PL 0.917
0.632
Explanation: * p < 0.01, ** p < 0.05. Group denotation: 1: learning 1 language, 2: learning 2 languages,
3: learning 3 languages. Learners of 3 and 4 languages were grouped into one group for the analysis.
4. Discussion
The results of the factor analysis revealed four significant factors associated with the
effect of FLL on seniors’ subjective well-being. These four factors are as follows: positive
emotions and mental abilities (i.e., emotions and abilities evoked when learning a foreign
language)—C1, no benefit (i.e., negative aspects of FLL)—C2, future (i.e., usefulness of
FLL in future)—C3, and motivation (i.e., finding a new purpose of life)—C4. The findings
in Table 1 clearly show that all positive factors prevail over the negative ones.
The respondents namely reported that FLL helped them in learning other things, im-
proved their attention, concentration, and FLL especially helped them while travelling. In
addition, the respondents on average disagreed with the statements covered under C2 (no
benefit), such as FLL brings me no benefit, it is stressful or has a negative impact on me.
Indeed, the respondents stated that FLL was enjoyable, brought them happiness, as well
as they felt that their cognitive functions had improved [4–5,9–10,16–18]. This subjective
Sustainability 2021, 13, 1590 10 of 13
feeling of improved cognitive functions is very important, regardless of the actual effect
on the improvement of cognitive functions, as this subjective feeling improves the feeling
of happiness and well-being significantly.
In general, there is not much research into the actual improvement of cognitive func-
tions by foreign language learning; however, this improvement or at least maintenance of
well-being is a sufficient nonpharmacological approach to successful aging. Generally, the
respondents see FLL as a process rather than the aim of its own (cf. [6,9]); therefore, they
do not focus on the results of the learning process and can consider the whole activity as
very enjoyable, thus contributing to their elevated levels of happiness. In fact, learning a
foreign language enables them to find a new purpose of their life, which reflects their
inner need to study a foreign language (cf. [7]). This newly found purpose of life is again
crucial as healthy aging is always positively correlated to purposefulness and meaning-
fulness.
In addition, the correlation between the demographic variables and the four factors
confirmed other well-known facts about FLL. Firstly, although there were not any signif-
icant differences in the group of Polish seniors, the results among the Czech seniors indi-
cated that younger seniors (55–65 years) appreciated the usefulness of FLL more than
older ones. This is most likely connected with the fact that some of them still work and
can use the foreign language in their jobs. Moreover, their economic situation enables
them to travel and thus use a foreign language.
The findings also showed that the younger they were, they valued positive emotions
and mental abilities while learning a foreign language more. The reason might be that
younger seniors still feel more confident and less prejudiced about their FLL abilities [19].
This practical aspect of FLL can inevitably bring a feeling of the usefulness of one´s life
even at an older age and therefore naturally increase the sense of meaningfulness.
Secondly, there were not any significant differences between the sexes in the assess-
ment of the given four factors in both groups of respondents. Nevertheless, the Czech
male seniors seemed to be less worried about the negative aspects of FLL than the Czech
senior females, and the Polish male seniors appeared to appreciate the positive emotions
and mental abilities less than the Polish senior females. As research shows, this may be
associated with the fact that females are more gifted than males in language learning and
enjoy learning a foreign language more.
Furthermore, language is the most feminized field in public secondary education
[20]. Although this might be considered a stereotype, it has been proven by evidence. For
example, according to the survey conducted in 2013 in Britain, of all UK university lan-
guages students, 69% were female (19,775) and 31% were male (8,935) [21]. As a Dutch
study [22] also showed, female learners consistently outperformed male learners in speak-
ing and writing. As this research is not intercultural but rather compares two regions that
have a similar geographical area, the research does not bring any aspects of cognitive lin-
guistics dealing with mental categories and the discrepancies between them when consid-
ering geographical differences. It only brings aspects of psycholinguistics, i.e., how a new
cognitive activity, namely a second language acquisition at a later age, can contribute to
increased levels of happiness and subjective well-being.
Thirdly, the correlation between the variable of education and the four factors in both
groups of respondents revealed that people with a higher level of education were more
likely to appreciate the benefits of FLL than those with a lower level of education. It is
possibly connected to the better cognitive activity of the brain in those individuals with a
higher intelligence quotient and also to the longer habitual activity, i.e., studying for a
longer time in the past. Recollecting the moments from one´s life as a student can also
contribute, at least unconsciously, to better feelings. These aspects would need further
verification by subsequent research.
Finally, as far as the correlation between the variable of the number of languages
studied and the four factors are concerned, the findings indicated that the more languages
the senior knew, the subjectively happier and cognitively better, s/he felt. As it has been
Sustainability 2021, 13, 1590 11 of 13
already pointed out by the theory of bilingualism, speaking two languages can bring not
only cognitive benefits but also social benefits, e.g., communicating with other people of
the same age and from different cultures, as well as psychological advantages (e.g., being
less isolated).
The main limitation of this study consists of a relatively small scale of the research.
This is caused by the fact that there are not very many courses for this age group and
respondents from this age group. However, taking this into consideration, the research
sample is sufficient and seems representative enough. Therefore, the research sample that
may seem rather small, when taking into consideration this fact, in reality, is sufficient
and enables us to draw statistically relevant conclusions. Another limitation might be that
the research was conducted in two relatively small and neighbouring countries, but it can
be an impetus for deeper and larger-scale research, ideally on a global level. Therefore,
these limitations do not pose any threat to the relevance of this research and do not un-
dermine its findings. Moreover, this research can be considered as a catalyst for further
research activity into FLL and healthy aging.
In summary, all these aspects bring very important findings and can equip us with
useful and efficient strategies, leading to better and healthy aging. As it has already been
noted, older age brings many challenges and does not need to be viewed as a period of
life that should rather be neglected or even eliminated [23]. Moreover, we have to attempt
to meet the cognitive, mental and societal needs of older population groups, especially in
this digital world, as it brings many challenges but also possibilities to improve or main-
tain healthy aging. FLL generally can be utilized as a tool for cognitive enhancement, not
only in younger students [24–26], but also at an older age as our research clearly indicated.
5. Conclusions
The research conducted and presented in this paper summarizes the most important
aspects of learning a foreign language in older age as a key strategy to maintain the sub-
jective feeling of happiness at a relatively high level in elderly people without necessary
pharmacological intervention. This nonpharmacological intervention through increased
cognitive activity and social contacts can very well supplement other tools widely used to
enhance and sustain human well-being at an older age. The research clearly indicates that
this approach can be valid as it brings many new opportunities to successful aging as a
natural process and an inevitable part of human life. Foreign language learning as a sec-
ond language acquisition at an older age is a cognitively stimulating and socially enhanc-
ing activity, undisputedly leading to an improved life and better aging. Moreover, it
proves to be a systematic approach to improved life in older age and thus can provide us
with individual resilience strategies leading to societal sustainability in the long run.
However, further research is needed to verify all these findings and further develop future
trajectory of research activity into healthy aging.
Author Contributions: Conceptualization, B.K. and M.P.; methodology, B.K. and M.P.; software,
A.C.-E. and S.D.; validation, B.K. and M.P.; formal analysis, A.C.-E., S.D., B.K. and M.P.; investiga-
tion, B.K. and M.P.; resources, B.K. and M.P.; data curation, A.C.-E., S.D., B.K. and M.P.; writing—
original draft preparation, B.K. and M.P.; writing—review and editing, B.K. and M.P.; visualiza-
tion, A.C.-E., S.D., B.K. and M.P. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the
manuscript.
Funding: This research received no external funding.
Institutional Review Board Statement: All the respondents were students of the U3A at the Uni-
versity of Hradec Kralove and Wroclaw University of Economics and Business. The participants´
agreement with the intervention by the foreign language classes they attended was expressed by
their involvement in those courses. All of the participants had signed the written consent with the
language class intervention before the course itself. There was no experiment involving humans
conducted, it was a regular language class. The data were collected by an anonymized questionnaire
related to the participants´ satisfaction with the courses, those that are conducted after all classes at
Sustainability 2021, 13, 1590 12 of 13
the end of each semester. For this reason, there was no need to have an agreement of an ethics com-
mittee of the university. No personal data were collected and the questionnaire submitted to them
does not demand any legal measures required by the GDPR regulation of the EU.
Informed Consent Statement: All the participants provided their written consent before the lan-
guage course had started.
Data Availability Statement: All the data are at disposal at the corresponding author upon request.
Acknowledgments: The paper is supported by the project entitled Excellence (2021) at the Faculty
of Informatics and Management of the University of Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
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