Most people have had a language class at some point in their lives. Whether it was Spanish or French or even Latin, we all have nightmares of conjugation tables and reciting how to say “Where’s the bathroom?” (Donde esta el baño, où sont les toilettes, and ubi est latrina). As boring as these classes may have been to you, they were extremely beneficial. Even if you don’t need to speak Spanish or Italian on a regular basis, the more languages you learn, the healthier your brain is.
Seriously, we’ve discussed ways to stay mentally sharp, but learning a new language may be at the top of that list. Teaching yourself a language is a total brain workout, the mental version of swimming. We can see you sitting there, skeptical that learning how to ask for a sandwich in Italian (Posso avere un panino) could be so good for you. Sit tight, you’ll be signing up for lessons soon!
Makes You Mentally Stronger
First and foremost, learning a new language improves key factors of mental sharpness. One study took students aged 18 to 78 and had them take a Scottish Gaelic class. After the one-week course ended, students displayed improved mental alertness and focus. Researchers believe that bilingual brains are better at processing information, allowing you to identify what’s important quickly.
In fact, one Penn State study found that multilingual people vastly outperform monoglots – those who speak just one language – in nearly every facet of multitasking.
An improved focus is one reason why learning multiple languages improves your ability to multitask. In fact, one Penn State study found that multilingual people vastly outperform monoglots – those who speak just one language – in nearly every facet of multitasking. Everything from focusing on specific details to prioritization was improved. Polyglots – those who speak multiple languages – are even better at working on several tasks at the same time. One reason for this is that bilinguals train their brains to switch from one task to another. This phenomenon is especially plain in both the young and the old, where multilingual participants outperformed their single language peers.
Finally, if you find it difficult to make decisions, learn a new language. We kid you not, learning a new language can make you a more rational decision-maker. A 2012 study from the University of Chicago found that thinking about a decision in a second language effectively removes bias from your decision. This was later replicated and confirmed by a 2015 study in the academic journal, Cognition. How does it work? Both studies suggest that thinking about the problem at a distance and in a second language forces you to slow down and removes a lot of the initial emotion. Ultimately, this leads to you making more rational, well-thought-out decisions.
Fights Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Alzheimer’s and dementia can be heartbreaking or terrifying conditions. For the family, it can feel like you’re losing your loved one, and for the loved one, it can feel like you’re losing yourself. While we don’t have a cure yet, we know there are things you can do to prevent or lower your chances. You can now add one more option to the list. That’s right, learning another language delays the onset of dementia, according to one study. These findings were independent of subject educational background or immigration status. Bilingualism can delay the first signs of dementia by around 5 years, which is incredible.
One common theory is that the more efficiently a brain works, the more it can compensate for age-related decline.
Improved language skills may even help prevent Alzheimer’s. Studies show that bilingual brains work more efficiently, while single language brains work harder. One common theory is that the more efficiently a brain works, the more it can compensate for age-related decline and losses from dementia.
Keeps Your Brain Young
Ultimately, learning another language keeps your brain younger. Simple as that. The more efficient our brains, the less wear and tear. Another study found that learning another language improves overall cognitive abilities and, ultimately, slowed aging in the brain. These findings were echoed by the Scottish Gaelic class study as well.
As a bonus, the more languages you speak, the more benefits you’ll experience.
The effects were found in seniors that had learned a second language at any stage in their life. That means it’s never too late for you to start learning. You don’t need to be fluent, you only need to learn a little bit of another language to start seeing the benefits. As a bonus, the more languages you speak, the more benefits you’ll experience. Imagine — a younger, stronger brain that’s less likely to experience cognitive impairment. Don’t worry if learning your second language was tough since bilinguals find it easier to learn a third language.
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With all those benefits to look forward to, what are you waiting for? Start learning a new language today! Ciao, arrivederci, au revoir, and auf wiedersehen!