At AST, we work with many different languages every day. Learning a new language is a long process that takes a lot of effort – but it’s very rewarding to be able to chat to new people in their native tongue, access foreign-language content and even work in your second or third language!
But language learning isn’t just a lot of fun – it also has a surprising number of benefits for your brain. Here are seven of them:
Having to compartmentalise and switch between languages encourages mental dexterity ('Juggling languages can build better brains'). Juggling between different linguistic systems means the brain becomes used to handling lots of conflicting information at once, which makes it easier to carry out several tasks at the same time.
Another skill associated with this is a multilingual person’s ability to ignore and filter out irrelevant information. This means language learners often have improved focus.
After learning new words and grammatical concepts, the brain actively tries to create new sentences to get across what it means. This is a natural process because our brains want to communicate – it’s a huge feature of our evolution as social animals.
Building language requires playing around with new constructions, which is a highly creative process, and the brain’s efforts to find new ways of communicating can result in enhanced problem-solving skills.
Language learning can make you a better communicator in your native language. Studying a foreign language involves learning about and analysing your own language. This means you learn how to select words more carefully and better understand the art of conveying a message simply and effectively. The skills you can learn while practising listening in a foreign language can help make you a more attentive listener in your native language too.
6. Brain health
Language learning is excellent exercise for your brain and studies ('To stave off Alzheiner's, learn a language?') have shown that the average age at which Alzheimer’s develops is delayed in those who speak more than one language – so it could actually keep your brain healthier for longer!
7. Grow your brain
One Swedish study ('Language learning makes the brain grow, Swedish study suggests') suggests that language learning may increase the size of the parts of your brain associated with language, such as the hippocampus. So it seems feeling smug about learning a new language can make you big-headed in more ways than one!