8 Surprising Benefits of Learning a Second Language

Speak a new language and the world will be a new world

Sep 28, 2016
Special Collections: EXPAND YOUR MIND
Being multilingual brings foreign places closer when traveling and allows you to fully immerse yourself in the culture. (Shutterstock)

Being multilingual brings foreign places closer when traveling and allows you to fully immerse yourself in the culture. (Shutterstock)

In a globalized world, where virtually any point on the planet can be reached in hours, learning a language is a wonderful benefit. It brings foreign places closer when traveling and allows you to fully immerse yourself in the culture. Being multilingual is also a wonderful advantage when watching foreign movies, or searching for work abroad. But these are obvious benefits. Learning a second language also enables us to develop incredible mental abilities and much more:

1. IT LITERALLY MAKES YOUR BRAIN GROW

Learning a foreign language introduces the brain to a new set of complexities including rules and etymology. As the brain works to recognize the structure of the unfamiliar language and how to fully utilize it, the language centres in the brain actually grow. The more you learn, the more those cerebral areas, which eventually also helps in other tasks such as reading, negotiating, and problem-solving.

2. IT KEEPS YOU SHARP FOR LONGER

Recent research suggests that multilingual adults experienced the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia at a later age of 75 compared to monolingual adults who had the first signs at age 71. The studies also looked at other variables such as gender, health, educational level, and economic status, but none of them contributed as significantly as the number of languages spoken.

3. IT BOOSTS YOUR MEMORY AND ATTENTION

Studies suggest that since polyglots have several language active in their head at the same time, they enjoy cognitive boosts such as improved attention and better multi-tasking. The brain must constantly pay attention to which language to use, and therefore gets used to multitasking. Multilinguals show more cognitive flexibility and find it easier to adapt to unexpected circumstances.

Mulitlinguals enjoy cognitive boosts such as improved attention and better multi-tasking (Shutterstock)

Mulitlinguals enjoy cognitive boosts such as improved attention and better multi-tasking (Shutterstock)

4. IT IMPROVES YOUR MOTHER TONGUE

As soon as a person becomes somewhat fluent in their second language, they become aware of the differences in structure of the foreign language and become more conscious of the vocabulary, grammar, conjugation, idioms, and sentence construction of their first language. This added awareness improves comprehension and conversation in the mother tongue, and can make them better at their first language.

5. IT’S GOOD FOR YOUR CHILDREN

A recent study found that infants raised in bilingual environments have stronger working memories than those growing up with only one language. Babies from bilingual households can even distinguish languages they’ve never even heard before because their brains are already used to recognizing linguistic differences.

6. IT OPENS UP A NEW WAY OF SEEING THE WORLD

Different cultures see them world in slightly different ways and language can reflect this with unique terminology, grammar, and sentence structure. Japanese has a broader color spectrum than many other languages, Finish doesn’t have a future tense, and certain Amazonian tribes don’t have a concept of time at all. Speaking and thinking in a language that follows a different logic than your mother tongue, can significantly broaden your horizon. As Ludwig Wittgenstein said: The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.

7. IT IMPROVES YOUR DECISION-MAKING ABILITY

According to a study from the University of Chicago, multilingual people have an easier time making decisions. Polyglots constantly need to judge nuances and regional expressions of their non-native tongue for correctness and appropriateness. This constant practice in decision-making, makes multilingual people more confident in their choices.

8. IT BOOSTS YOUR OVERALL ACADEMIC EXPERIENCE

Because multilingual brains have to work differently, they develop stronger cognitive skill. People who speak more than one language are shown to have higher scores on standardized exams in math, reading comprehension, and vocabulary compared to the scores of monolingual students. Continued immersion in other languages is known to increase IQ and develop innovativeness in students.

DAVID RUHM, EDITOR & WRITER
David has a passion for languages and words, and loves to see people happy. He writes about inspiring ideas, amazing technologies and all the wonders of the world.

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