The thought that learning language stimulates brain growth may never have crossed your mind, but the truth is that language learning challenges your brain and stimulates it to stay pliable and strong. Regardless of your age, learning a new language can boost your brain’s function in more ways than one and we’ll explore all the benefits of learning a foreign language and how it directly affects the brain.
The impact of language on a young mind
Children have high neuroplasticity, something that wasn’t widely known until recent years, leading to bi-racial families teaching their children just one language for fear that they might develop mental health problems or confusion. However, recent study has shown us that babies as young as 7 months old have demonstrated the cognitive benefits of being brought up in a bilingual household, proving that language can help develop the brain and increase awareness in young babies.As they grow older, the benefits of knowing how to speak more than one language manifest in better test results, higher empathy, and according to one report, “students able to speak a second language have better listening skills, sharper memories, are more creative, are better at solving complex problems, and exhibit greater cognitive flexibility.”
How adult brains handle language learning
Curiously, adult brains are just as stimulated as a child’s when exposed to learning a new language. Learning a second language immediately enriches one’s brain and opens it up to new concepts, perspectives, and cognition. It can even strengthen the brain against aging, which is surprising as there’s nothing else that can do what learning a second language does for the brain. You can engage in stimulating debates and play all the chess you want, but it’s never going to give you the same benefits that learning a second language will. The size of your hippocampus actually increases as you learn a new language, which means that your capacity for learning and memorization is enhanced.
You don’t need to be fluent, you just need to know a second language
According to research, you don’t even need to be fluent in a second language in order to reap the benefits. Instead, a handful of words will be able to help you retain your memory better and give you an enhanced learning experience. However, it is noted that it is much easier to learn languages when you are young, and that there are some people with a natural predisposition for language learning and that you shouldn’t be disheartened if a friend or family member surpasses you even though you two started learning at the same time. The key is to being consistent, as the more you learn, the more you will be able to learn, and given the benefits of knowing how to speak a second language, you should definitely look into picking up a new language, especially in today’s landscape where you can watch foreign films with subtitles on your smartphone, listen to foreign music easily, learn via games and apps, or enroll in an online language course.