What does learning a language do for your brain?
It’s a couple of weeks into 2018 and your resolve to dedicate more time to English may be fading. Even if that’s not the case, we thought it would be fun to look at some of the ‘brain benefits’ of learning a language.
Many linguists and neurologists agree that the brain responds in a similar way to a muscle, growing in size after regular stimulation. It’s also widely acknowledged that language learning is one of the most successful forms of brain training. So, here are some fascinating facts about what happens in your brain when you learn another language:
- Your brain becomes better integrated: a study of Mandarin learners in the U.S* found that brain networks of the participants in the language programme had become better integrated. This means faster and more efficient learning.
- Your memory improves: MRI scans done as part of a study in Sweden ** showed parts of the brain associated with memory (such as the hippocampus and cerebral cortex) physically grew when stimulated regularly. The conclusion was that memory therefore improves.
- Dementia is delayed: several studies have concluded that Alzheimer’s disease and the onset of dementia is diagnosed later for bilinguals or fluent speakers than for monolinguals.
- You become more perceptive: a study in Spain found that multi-lingual people are better at observing their surroundings. They are more adept at focussing on relevant information and editing out what is irrelevant. They are also better at spotting misleading information.
- It becomes easier to learn new languages: once your brain has been trained to spot patterns involved in learning a new language, it makes it much easier for it to spot the patterns in the future.
In the past, it was assumed that speaking more than one language could confuse the brain and have negative effects on cognitive functionality but this has not proved true. Nor is age a factor – research tells us it’s never too late to learn a language. So, what are you waiting for?! Commit to a regular practice, book an intensive language course, start looking for opportunities to use your English now!