A plethora of linguistic, neurological, and psychological studies have been conducted so far with a mutual goal – to find out how foreign language learning affects our cognitive processes and life in general. Taking into consideration their results, it can be said that there are many amazing health, social, and cognitive benefits of speaking a second language. So, let’s take a look at some of them.
According to the research conducted by Johan Martensson and his colleagues at Lund University in Lund, Sweden, studying a foreign language can trigger brain growth. What they analyzed during their research was the hippocampal volumes and cortical thickness in the brains of conscript interpreters. Namely, after only three months of intense language learning, the changes were displayed in their hippocampus, middle frontal gyrus, inferior frontal gyrus, and superior temporal gyrus. Which only evidences that the brain regions responsible for performing language functions during second language learning undergo some noticeable structural changes.
There are multiple studies that show the fact that bilinguals have excellent multitasking skills. In one study, the participants were asked to perform distracting tasks while using a driving simulator.
Apparently, monolinguals made more errors in driving than their bilingual peers. When you use two languages in your daily life, you’re constantly switching between two, often completely different linguistic systems, trying to juggle vocabulary, meanings, structures, and much more. Learning how to switch between languages, apparently helps you learn how to switch between the tasks as well.
As explained in the previous point, the brain of bilinguals is accustomed to working according to two or more different systems. It constantly has to recognize and negotiate meaning, which happens to improve its functionality. In that way, it gains the ability to work out the meaning while performing other problem-solving tasks. Which is no surprise that students studying foreign languages usually get higher scores on standardized tests. Especially when it comes to maths, reading, and vocabulary. Bilinguals also tend to be better at prioritizing, discarding irrelevant information and juggling multiple tasks. Learning languages is one of the best stimuli for the brain since it stimulates it on a couple of different levels: different sounds, different concepts in grammar, different words and expressions and different ways of interacting with the native speakers.
Again, there’re several studies that analyzed the connection between speaking a second language and cognitive decline. The results of the one research that took into account gender, physical health, education level and income level, show that monolinguals start experiencing Alzheimer’s four and a half years earlier than bilinguals. And the great thing about this matter is that you’ll be able to reap this amazing benefit of second language speaking even if you start learning it in the adulthood.
It’s already a common knowledge that nowadays your career opportunities are much enhanced if you speak a second language. Even when it’s not required, the ability to communicate in other languages will give you a great advantage. It gives an impression of intelligent, motivated, and determined person.
What is more, having an ability to interact with other communities is gaining in value in today’s world of global communication. Since English is said to be the lingua franca of the modern era, people all around the world are taking up English courses held by natives to improve their chances of employment.
The research reports that bilinguals have increased creativity in comparison to monolinguals. When learning a new language, you’re forced to play with the words and phrases you learn. It means that you have to come up with the alternative for the word you wanted to use, but couldn’t quite recall it at the very moment. Which definitely boosts your ability to think divergently – to provide several solutions to one particular problem.
Another way learning a second language boosts your creativity is by giving you a new perspective of the world. People say the same expressions differently in different languages, for example, Good night or Sweet dreams in English is the equivalent of Have a delicious sleep in Vietnamese. By learning more languages you are improving your abilities of being more creative at describing people, things and situations.
Also, by learning another language you are forced to work on your humor skills since it will often happen that jokes that are funny in one language loose their essence when translated, so you’ll have to adopt a whole new sense of humor.
The University of Chicago published the study according to which foreign language speakers have a tendency to make more rational decisions. It’s known that the vocabulary of any language consists of nuance implications you’re forced to choose between while speaking. Therefore, multilingual speakers don’t question their decisions as much as monolingual speakers. After seeing their decision from the perspective of their second language, they’re able to tell whether they made the right choice or not.
In case you’re a fan of two most popular investigators in the world – Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, then you probably know that both of them are polyglots. Another study revealed that multilinguals are better observers of their surroundings. They can edit out the irrelevant information while paying attention only to what’s crucial. Which is why they can also easily identify misleading information.
As you can see, there are many amazing benefits to reap by learning a second language. No matter how old you are, you’ll get the chance to improve yourself on various fields. So, what are you waiting for?