24 Benefits to Learning a New Language
Updated: Jan 19
So many myths about learning a new language and whether or not it is possible either a really early age or an adult (for more about this, see my blog post about the 8 Myths About Learning a Second Language).
Increase Your Brain Size
This is going to sound VERY scientific, but...learning a second language has been shown to increase the size of your hippocampus and your cerebral cortex. So this is great for us adults for lots of reasons...now apply it to your kids. Brain growth is one of the things they are doing already, so what if you start early with the language learning and kick start all that goodness going on?
The study the shows this is really fascinating because they compared a group in the military learning a new language with a group in medical school...we all know that our brains are powering on the learning when you're in medical school and this is what's so interesting. Those medical school student brains stayed the same size! While the military language learners brain size increased. This is powerful stuff and a strong argument for learning a new language, for sure.
Looking at brain scans of people who speak more than one language shows a greater amount of gray matter in the left hemisphere, which is the part of the brain responsible for language. More gray matter is a good thing, because it is an indicator of how many brain cells and dendrites there are.
White matter improves as well. You don't necessarily get more, you get more organized white matter. White matter is responsible for the transmission of messages throughout the brain and strengthens the neural pathways so your brain communicates better with itself.
Improve Your Long- and Short-Term Memory
Children who learn a second language are show to have better memory recall than those who speak only a single language. Research shows that the more proficient you are in a second language the better your memory gets! Learning then, is a bit like brain exercise.
Research shows that people who speak more than one language experience the onset of Alzheimers a full 4.5 years later! It also positively impacts the onset of other age-related conditions because of improved condtionsin the brain's white matter. Regardless of when you pick up that second language, the learning of it increases neural pathways in the brai and improves the areas of the brain related to executive function and attention. I'll take that.
Improve Your Multi-Tasking Abilities
People who speak two languages get proficient at switching from one to the other. This is skill is challenging from the brain. A study found that training your brain in this way when it comes to languages, translates to an increased ability to multi-task in daily life. The National Institutes of Health study indicates bilinguals switch tasks faster than monolinguals.
Increase Your Attention Span
Of late, attention span has shrunk from 12 to 8 seconds. Research is showing that the attention switching abilities that come from learning a second language helps the brain maintain focus and block distractions.
Increase Your Perception
This is a good one: Multilingual people has the ability to focus on relevant information and editing out the irrelevant and they are better at observing their surroundings. It turns out mulitlinguals are also better at observing their surroundings, all of which means they have better perception.
Improve Your Spatial Abilities
Spatial awareness is what we do when we visualize things in our minds eye. It has been shown that multilingual people find innovative ways to solve practical problems which may be due to their increased ability to focus developed when learning a second language..
Improve Your Abilities with your FIRST Language!
Leaning a second language actually make you more aware of how your original/native language works. The learning causes you to be aware of the rules and structure of how languages work and thus improves your first language. It is said to make you a better overall communicator and help you better manipulate language in the service of thinking and problem solving..
Expand Your Native Language Vocabulary Skills
Not much to explain here. When you are learning new words in your second language, you will find you automatically improve your vocabulary skills in your Native language
Gain Higher Reading Achievement
Children with average and below-average intelligence, experience increased ability to read when they learn a second language.
Get Higher Standardized Test Scores
As a result of higher cognitive skills, studies show that the benefits of learning a new language include higher scores on standardized exams in math, reading comprehension and vocabulary by multilingual students compared to the scores of monolingual students
Have More Flexible Thinking and Think FASTER!
Learning a second language gives you more flexible thinking. Studies show that bilingual children show superior performance on non-linguistic tasks and execute instructions half a second faster. Learning a language is one of the most complicated skills you can master. Because language learning requires so many decisions to be made all along the way, learners become increase their ability to prioritize.
Enhance Your Creative Thinking Capacities
When you learn a new language, you’re forced to think of an alternative word that you’re not used to using.
We often have to puzzle together words to form a sentence until it fits and makes sense to the other person. It improves your divergent thinking skills, training you to think of multiple solutions to problems on a consistent basis.
Improve Your Problem Solving Skills
Bilinguals’ increased metalinguistic awareness creates a form of thinking that is more open and objective, resulting in increased awareness and flexibility. When presented with mathematical and non-mathematical equations bilingual children were shown to be more creative in their problem solving than their monolingual peers
Improve Your Attitude Towards the Language and Culture of the Language Your are Learning
Language is the best introduction to another culture. It automatically sparks your interest in the cultural traditions tied to learning that language.
Multi-linguals can read native literature without the need for translation. You can sing the native/local songs and understand the lyrics. You can even watch foreign films without subtitles.
Different cultures offer different perspectives and ideologies from your own. Language is often the key for developing a better understanding and appreciation for the shared experience of two different cultures. Knowing the language opens the door to your understanding traditions, customs, festivals, believes, history and more. Knowing another language increases your global political awareness and understanding.
Increase College Acceptance, Academic Performance and Minimize Drop Outs
A study conducted in 2011 found that students who were in rigorous programs in high school—that included three years of foreign language study—were more likely to get better grades in college and less likely to drop out. (Horn &Kojaku 2001)
Another study showed that high school seniors with two or more years of foreign language study showed significantly improved performance on achievement tests in English when compared with non-foreign language students. (Bastian 1980)
Improve Your Listening Skills
Learning another languages forces you to improve your listening skills
Better Your Employment Opportunities and Career Choices
Eton Institute’s Language Development in the Workforce survey (September 2014), shows that 89% of their clients stated that multilingual employees add value to the workforce and 88% stated that recruiting team members with language skills is important to their organization. A multilingual ability is definitely a competitive edge
Other studies also show your chances for employment are much greater if you speak a second language. This is a reason to have your children learning another language now through high school as it gives them the edge to stand out in the interview process as the employers consider them to be better communicators and problem solvers
Enhance Your Travel Experiences and Opportunities
Traveling is more fun and so much easier when approached with out a language barrier. Converse easily with locals, read maps, order food in restaurants confidently, meet new people. Doors open to you around the world and you immediately make friendss when you share a language. People are surprisingly more open when you speak their mother tongue because they feel a greater level of respect from you towards them.
Knowing another language raises your status as a Global Citizen by enhancing your World view.
Broaden Your Entertainment Options
Watch movies without subtitles. Pick up and read newspapers, flyers, menus, tourist signs and more when you can read without getting out Google Translate or using hand gestures.
Improve Your Non-Verbal Skills
Speaking of hand gestures: Bilinguals show significant advantage especially in non-verbal tests that required more mental flexibility.
Improve Your Decision-Making Abilities
According to one study, multilingual speakers are more resistant to conditioning and framing techniques, making them less likely to be swayed by such language in advertisements or political campaign speeches.
It seems that foreign-language speakers are more sensitive and observant when it comes to the words they hear and read.
Improve Family Ties
Knowing another language can help keep your extended, international family connected. It allows you to communicate with people you would not otherwise have been able to
Increase Social Networking
Social Media platforms are worldwide now and people communicate in their native languages. Knowing a second language allows you to make new connections expanding your geographical scope. This could have positive results for your business as well as personal life.
So that is a LOOOOOOOOOOONG list!
With all this on your side...what is stopping you?
If you are wondering if it's too late for you to begin learning a new language go read 8 Myths About Learning a New Language.
And while you ponder your own language journey, if you have children, it's a huge advantage you can give them to start now. Browse private or group language classes here and learn-at-your-own-pace Digital Courses here.
If you're still waffling about whether to begin learning a new language (and we'd LOVE it if you start your language and culture journey with us!), click through here to get some good strategies for overcoming your internal objections.
Hope to see you growing your brain with us soon!