The ability to speak a language is what makes humans unique as a species. At the same time, the same language can separate us from people who speak in other language forms. We get news and information from sources that are in the language we know. We also communicate mostly with people with whom we share the same tongue and rarely learn about the world that’s out there.
The more languages we speak, the more we open up our world and potential experiences. We can connect with other people and develop empathy. Businesses that create content in other languages can reach a more global audience.
Not only that, but we also improve how well our brains function. There are proven benefits to learning a new language that affects your mental wellbeing and long-term health.
Let’s look at ways that learning a new language will boost your brain and how to learn other tongues in an effective way.
Improve your thinking skills and memory
The brain is just like any other muscle, the more we work it out, the stronger it gets. Also, when you’re learning new languages, you have to switch between them. Frequently switching between languages leads to an increased ability to focus.
Speaking a different language uses more regions of your brain, making it more creative and active overall. You’ll be able to improve your concentration, build your memory power, and from what studies show, you’ll even increase the size of your brain.
Language learning delays aging
When you learn a new language, you’re using extensive neural networks. This makes the process of learning new words, grammar, and phrases powerful tools for reorganizing brain plasticity.
As we grow older, there’s a reduction in gray matter and white matter in the brain. This is associated with declining mental cognition. Studies show that having a bilingual experience increases gray matter volume in the brain which makes for a healthier brain.
When you speak more languages, you also improve the integrity of white matter in your brain which allows messages to travel quickly through your nerves to your brain.
There are strong indications that learning a new language will keep your brain from aging, so it’s essential to make it a part of your life to stay mentally youthful.
Get comfortable with abstract concepts
Because sounds and words can have different meanings in different languages, you learn to create new associations with sounds in your mind.
This kind of mental activity makes you comfortable with abstract thinking. Being able to understand abstract concepts opens your mind to inventive solutions in everyday problems. You’ll boost your problem-solving skills and develop an analytical mindset.
How to optimize your language learning
There are many ways to learn languages today. You can join an online course for a second language and work one-on-one with a teacher.
However, it’s important to learn languages the ‘right way’. That is, to learn in the most effective way possible.
From the research mentioned previously, you get the most out of language learning by studying it intensely.
You see a higher impact on cognition from working on a language for 14 hours a week for just a few weeks. The effect, in the form of enhanced memory and concentration, is present for several months. But learning sporadically for about 2 hours a week for four months doesn’t show much improvement.
So, when learning a new language, make sure to study hard and to keep at it for longer periods of time to see the best effect on your mind. Also, the more challenging the process is, the more you work your mind, which leads to better long-term effects.
Other helpful tools include using a flash card software and doing a language exchange program where you speak with a native speaker and help each other boost your language skills.
Humans are the only animals on earth with brains capable of creating languages. What’s interesting is that languages can also enhance our brains. There’s a two-way connection that we can use to keep our minds sharp as we get older.
We’ve looked at some powerful reasons why you should learn a second language with a specific focus on brain development. It’s also important to study a new language with intensity rather than to take it up in a casual way.
Finally, you also open your world to new experiences, and the ability to connect with more people, a reward that makes the pursuit of learning a new language worthwhile on its own.