Learning second language is beneficial for a multitude of reasons. It slows down the aging of brain and improves your intellect. It also helps combat dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders related to memory loss.
Getting at the bottom of the intricacies of another language other than your mother tongue is one of the most difficult challenges engaging your grey matter leading to brain development. You can improve your intelligence as well by learning a new language.
More tender is your age more is your potential to learn a second language. Children who are interactive in more than one language are expected to do academically better than monolingual children.
An age-old fear existed among parents that forcing their children to learn a second language would have a negative impact on learning intensive subjects like mathematics and science. Studies show proficiency in more than one language helps in grasping other subjects better.
Children knowing more than one language show better capabilities:
A bilingual child is way better than its monolingual counterpart in multiple areas. Experiments were carried out using disappearing puppets where scientists found a bilingual child fared better in this fun game possibly it had a better cognitive functioning.
In another study where a memory game was given as a test, kids aged 5 years who spoke more than one language performed quicker than monolingual kids. Their performance was precise as well. Learning second language is beneficial to children irrespective of race, sex or academic capabilities.
Childhood critical for learning second language:
The mind of a child is impressionable like a soft cast. An infant is able to respond to sound 10 weeks before birth hearing his mother’s voice and the pattern of sound when she speaks. This sound is transmitted through bone conduction.
The infant’s brain is able to respond quickly to a few lovable words or sounds called parentese which parents often use while communicating with their child. This is the stepping stone of learning a language by the child.
As child-parent interactions grow, language development in child takes place faster. When children start going to school, parents can enable their brain development by offering opportunities to enhance their language-grasping skills.
Helping children to interact in more than one language through speaking, listening and writing would do them a world of good. When children listen to the cadence of a sound associated with a word, a bundle of neurons in the auditory cortex respond to each sound in a specific pattern. Learning becomes easier and effective but with age, this capability goes on a wane.
Learning a second language at home goes a long way in shaping a child’s academic career. It also boosts self-confidence in the child. If both the parents come from different language background, hearing parents speak in native languages, the child picks up both the languages with ease. However, as the child grows up the window of opportunity gradually shuts down. As an adult, the learning process declines.
Knowledge of a second language is good for the adult brain too:
Learning second language as an adult can improve your intelligence. It can be even fun and it helps your mind stay active no matter how old you are. With a meager effort, you can always take in three new words a day, get their meanings and practice them. This would be a good leap forward in being acquainted with a foreign language.
An array of benefits pours in like:
- You can be better at planning, strategy setting and decision making.
- You can develop better flexibility of your intellect that will help you in accomplishments involving multi-tasking.
- You become less vulnerable to marketing propaganda. You are able to see things in a broader perspective and concentrate on long-term gains rather than short-term ones.
- Your retention capacity is enhanced.
- It improves the volume of brain language centre and hippocampus, the area where creation, storage and retrieving of memory is processed.
- It enhances brain density increasing larger volume of blood flow to your brain.
- Learning second language can multiply the neural networks between different parts of the brain. A new language and its constant practice improve the connectivity between different sections of the brain. Information processing is facilitated by this development.
How your brain improves on learning second language?
There is a strong scientific reason behind this. Imagine a person speaking in two different languages. He has to continuously juggle with the vocabulary of two languages while switching between the two.
The brain has flexible language centers. As you learn a second language, new areas of your mind develop. This strengthens your brain’s natural ability to concentrate and information processing
Often we see children speaking with multilingual friends or an executive interacting with colleagues in different languages. In true sense, bilingual speakers are managing two different ways of thinking which enhance their efficiency in task and conflict management. They are able to concentrate better and can easily ignore extraneous stimulation, the main distracters.
A Swedish study supports the above reason:
A remarkable effect was observed in a Swedish research conducted on two groups of scholars. One group studied languages and the other group studies intensive non-linguistic subjects.MRI scans of two groups of scholars showed that the group focused on learning languages showed an increase in brain size while that of the other group remained the same.
The growth was primarily observed in the hippocampus and cerebral cortex of the brain associated with language-learning skills. According to an investigator of psychology in Sweden, learning languages keeps the brain in good form.
The immersive experience is more effective than grammatical lessons:
Another study was conducted in a different manner by Kara Morgan, a professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago. She and her team taught an artificial language to second language speakers. To one group it was taught following the grammatical rules while the other group was taught by the immersion process, the way we learn our native tongue.
The group which was taught through immersion process spoke like native speakers.
Six months later in a follow-up experiment when these learners no longer received any further input at home because the language was artificial, the immersive group was still good at grasping the grammatical rules of the language.
Should your kid master more than one language?
This goes without saying after knowing the tremendous benefits of learning a new language. But there is no need for enforcement. If a child takes interest in a new language, he/she should be encouraged.
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Adults too can take up learning a new language as a hobby to preserve their brain cells from dying due to aging. Although there is no cutting-edge app available yet to guide you in the process, the best way is to get enrolled in an online or offline language class. You can never get a better way of exercising your brain.