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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language

Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language

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Recent studies have found that speaking two or more languages can benefit a person’s cognitive processes evidently. Reportedly, those who speak two languages have superior brain structures compared to those who speak one language only. You may be worried that you cannot reap such benefits if you do not know a foreign language already but the truth is that if you have started learning a new language in your adult life, you can still achieve the same levels of fluency and reap similar mental benefits as a young learner. Below are some of the benefits of learning a foreign language, though most of them are apparent in only those who speak multiple languages on a daily basis.

You grow smarter

Speaking a foreign language boosts the brain’s functioning by compelling it to recognize, understand and communicate in different language systems. This skill in turn, improves your brain’s ability to solve other problems and tasks as well. For instance, students who study foreign languages have proven to score better on standardized tests related to mathematics and vocabulary, as compared to their monolingual peers. In the end, it all boils down to the fact that learning a new language helps different sectors of the brain to grow.

You develop multitasking skills

Bilingual individuals are more skilled at switching between two systems of writing, speech as well as structure. According to the recent studies that highlight the benefits of learning a foreign language, this ability to juggle between two systems improves the cognitive flexibility of bilingual people, making it easier for them to multitask and adapt to unexpected situations.

You reduce your chances of suffering from dementia and memory loss

The results of these studies have consistently shown that monolingual people display the first signs of dementia and other memory loss problems like Alzheimer’s when they are 71 years old but those who speak more than one language display such symptoms only after 76. Various factors such as subject’s level of income, level of education, gender and overall physical health were taken into consideration while determining these results.

Your memory improves

Educators and health experts often draw parallels between the brain and muscles because both seem to function better with exercise. Since people have to memorize rules and vocabulary while learning a new language, these exercises automatically end up strengthening the brain and improving overall memory, allowing bilingual individuals to retain shopping lists, names, contact numbers and directions better than monolinguals. In addition, bilinguals also appear to be better at reading, mental calculations and other vital skills.

You become more perceptive

The studies that aimed to find out the benefits of learning a foreign language also revealed that multilingual people are better at focusing on relevant information and more adept at observing their surroundings. They can also notice misleading information better and edit out information that seems irrelevant. Also, when you learn a new language, you are better equipped to understand one thing in many more ways, so your perception of everything seems to improve.

Your decision-making skills improve

The same studies have gone on to show that bilinguals make more rational decisions than monolingual individuals do. Since all languages contain nuances and subtle implications in their vocabularies, these biases tend to influence a person’s judgment, at a subconscious level, thus making bilinguals more confident about their choices and definitive about what they want.

You can pay more attention

Bilinguals have shown to pay more attention and avoid distractions. Various cognitive boosts like improved multi-tasking abilities and heightened perception help those who know multiple languages focus on various things at a time without feeling diverted.

Your first language gets better

Learning a foreign language automatically draws your attention to the mechanics of your first language including grammar, conjugations and sentence structure as you keep referring to it every time you need to learn something new. This way, you not only grow more aware of your first language, but also learn how to manipulate it better. In turn, you emerge an efficient communicator and skilled writer or editor.

You increase your job opportunities

Learning a foreign language can help you increase your job opportunities and career options. Being multilingual makes you eligible to work in many different professions from language teachers and air hostesses to interpreters and translators.

As opposed to several myths, learning a foreign language can actually benefit you in many ways. Even though many years ago, people used to think that two languages tend to confuse the mind and often lead to the development of psychological conditions like split-personality disorder and schizophrenia, recent studies have succeeded in overshadowing those misconceptions and proving otherwise.


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