Learning a second language is good for the brain
The desire to learn a second language often arises from the desire to live a more complete experience when we are abroad. When traveling in a country whose language is different from your own, online translation applications can only be useful to a certain extent. They allow us to decipher a menu, but not necessarily to start a conversation with our waiter. A fluent knowledge of the local language allows you to increase your discovery potential. Learn to speak a second languageit can certainly be difficult, this is because we train our mind to do something much more complex than memorizing new terms and their correct pronunciation; we expand our ability to reason, in different ways.
Bilingualism brings benefits that go beyond the ability to ask for directions or to order a coffee without accidentally receiving a tray of pasta (happy accident anyway, isn’t it?).
The mind of polyglots operates differently than that of monolinguals. The frequent use of a second language refines various cognitive abilities , and it seems that it even makes us appear more attractive. There are thousands of possibilities to acquire new language skills: enroll in a course, download an application such as Duolingo, or try more intensive software, such as Rosetta Stone (which is currently offering a 40% discount on the complete package up to in February 2017) . For each of these options, the key to success is commitment. Exercising constantly, even just for a quarter of an hour a day, already allows you to see the first benefits that accompany learning a second language .
Attention improves, and very quickly
It is not a valid excuse to give up as soon as verbal conjugations start to scare us, but research has shown that a short period of learning a language is enough to increase mental agility. A 2016 University of Edinburgh study looked at 33 students between the ages of 18 and 78 who took part in a one-week Scottish Gaelic course. The results demonstrated a greater improvement in several aspects of mental clarity (regardless of age) than that of a group of students on a non-language course and a group that did not take part in any course.
Multitasking Comes More Naturally
A study by the Pennsylvania state university found that a bilingual person performs better than a monolingual in managing multiple projects simultaneously. It is more natural for a bilingual mind to quickly eliminate irrelevant information and focus only on what is important. The researchers identified the basis for this developed ability in the way the bilingual mind juggles the two languages: the inner negotiation needed to speak acts as a “mental gym”, training the mind to quickly perceive and evaluate priorities.
Making decisions is easier in a foreign language
Researchers at the University of Chicago have found that using a foreign language to evaluate the pros and cons of a decision allows you to think more rationally and with less bias. Surprisingly, the use of a foreign language also reduces the repulsion towards defeat. Researchers attribute these effects to the fact that the foreign language allows you to maintain greater emotional and cognitive distance in assessing the risks of a decision.
Memory is more protected
A study conducted in Luxembourg has shown that those who speak more than two languages have a lower risk of developing memory problems such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. In fact, multilingualism would “have a protective effect on memory in the elderly who have used foreign languages in their lives or at school”. This benefit could be exponential, given that the risk of memory-related diseases is even lower in those who speak four or more languages fluently.
The mind acquires greater dimensions
A 2014 study entitled “The age in which a language is learned shapes the brain structure” found that the thickness of the cerebral cortex (normally associated with greater intelligence) of bilingual minds changes only when the learning a second language occurs after competence in the first has been acquired. The later you learn a second language, the bigger the effect on the brain structure, according to this study. In addition, bilingual people who frequently use both idioms may have more gray matter in the regions of the mind responsible for attention, inhibition and short-term memory, according to a recent study by Georgetown University Medical Center.