It seems that learning another language and speaking it on a regular basis can actually boost the performance of your brain and ward off the onset of degenerative diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. (Check below for Vocabulary & Idiom Check)
Numerous studies have shown that language study develops the brain’s ability to change its structure as a result of stimulation. Apparently, learning another language alters grey matter – the area of the brain that processes information – in the same way that regular physical training builds muscle strength and endurance .
Multilingual speakers have to alternate between two or more languages and all this switching has a great training affect on the brain’s capacity. Like regular strength training improves muscle mass, switching between languages gives the cognitive ‘muscles’ a terrific workout.
This improves a bilingual speaker’s capacity to maintain focus and shift between a variety tasks in a way that a monolingual speaker is more likely to struggle with. Bilingual speakers can often outperform single-language speakers in mental tasks such as editing out irrelevant information and focusing on what’s important. In general, bilinguals are better at prioritising and multi-tasking, too.
Recent studies also suggest that bilingual speakers hold dementia and Alzheimer’s disease at bay for up to four years longer on average compared with those who only speak one language.
Unfortunately, everyone’s brain goes downhill with age but scientists have found that at every stage of life it functions better in bilinguals. Learning another language won’t stop you from getting Alzheimer’s but it can certainly help you to better cope with its symptoms and delay its distressing effects for longer.
Learning a new language always throws up challenges, and like anything challenging you will no doubt experience frustration and doubts about your ability to succeed. So, next time you are sitting in your English class and grappling with that tricky past perfect tense or making a fool of yourself with your erroneous use of tones in your Mandarin Chinese lesson, remember that it really is worth staying the distance! Why? Because bilingualism is very good for your brain!
Vocabulary & Idiom Check
boost – help or encourage (something) to increase or improve
onset – he beginning of something, especially something unpleasant
degenerative – progressive deterioration of bodily organs or tissues
Alzheimer’s – progressive mental deterioration that can occur in middle or old age
dementia – brain disease marked by memory disorders, personality changes
alternate – occur in turn, repeatedly
switching – changing the position, direction or focus
multilingual – the ability to speak several different languages
bilingual – speaking two languages fluently
monolingual – speaking only one language
cognitive – of or relating to intellectual activity such as thinking, reasoning or remembering
shift – move or cause to move
outperform – perform better than
irrelevant – not closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand
prioritising – listing or rating something in order of importance or priority
multi-tasking – handling more than one task at the same time
to hold (something) at bay – to control something and prevent it from causing you problems
got go down hill – to get progressively worse
throws up – produce or reveal something new or unexpected
grappling – struggling or working hard to deal with or overcome something difficult
tricky – difficult or challenging
erroneous – incorrect
stay the distance – pursue a difficult task or activity to the end
What Happens To Your Brain When You Learn a New Language
Sources & Related Articles
- Learning languages ‘boosts brain’
- Being bilingual may delay Alzheimer’s and boost brain power
- Does Knowing A Second Language Really Broaden Your Mental Horizons?
- Being Bilingual May Boost Your Brain Power
- What’s the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia?