How Learning Foreign Languages Affects the Overall Growth of the Student

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How Learning Foreign Languages Affects the Overall Growth of the Student

There are some clear-cut benefits to learning a new language, but new research shows that these benefits extend well beyond the familiarization with a new culture through the spoken word. So how and why does learning foreign languages affect the brains of those who learn them?

Increase in brain matter

One recent Swedish study looked at the brain of people who were learning a new language, and compared it to other people who were learning too, but nothing regarding foreign languages. The first group showed increases in their cerebral cortex and hippocampus areas, most notably linked to better language skills, while the second group showed no significant growth whatsoever, except some minor improvements in motor skills. While an increase in brain matter is not news to the scientific community, the increase correlated specifically with learning foreign languages is new.

Why learn a new language as a student?

While the study referred to above targeted young people who had to learn a foreign language at a fast pace, people of all ages benefit from the same effect. However, there’s a clear reason why taking on another language early on is not only a lot easier but has a lot of stacking benefits. Numerous studies show that young people who have learnt  a second language became more confident and significantly improved their first language skills. In terms of education, new paths can be opened by knowing at least a second language and it’s a huge bonus to have on your applications later on, and on your resume when you start applying for jobs.

Prevention of dementia and Alzheimer’s

A study published in the Annual of Neurology shows a correlation between bilingual skills and a decrease in brain aging. This translates to a lower risk in developing dementia and Alzheimer’s later in life probably due to the fact that bilingual people spend more time learning, memorising and ‘exercising’ their brain in a sense. These activities have long been shown to improve overall cognitive ability and keep the brain active and healthy throughout our lives. And again, the effect follows us around for a lifetime – so it doesn’t really matter when you start learning foreign languages, as long as you invest the time and effort to do so.

Fitting into the fast-paced world

Learning foreign languages has also been directly linked with an increase in multi-tasking abilities, memory improvement, keener senses all around, being more observant and ultimately more aware of the world around you. There is also the increased capacity when t comes to, improving your decision-making abilities. All of these traits, skills and improvements translate into a huge advantage in our technology-driven, fast-paced society. Being able to adapt constantly, and with little effort, is becoming the norm for success, and linguists certainly display those abilities.

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