As our world continues to become more and more globalized, people seek opportunities to develop useful skills in this age of quick communication and collaboration. Bilingualism is one of the most beneficial skills that can help you communicate with people from all over the world. And learning a second language is about choosing a proactive approach.
There’s no sense in expecting everyone to speak your language. If you want to build new connections, you need to adapt, and learning another language enables you to do it. Unfortunately, only about 18% of Americans can fluently speak more than one language, so understanding the benefits of learning is really important.
Knowing different languages is great for communication. This isn’t, however, the only advantage of learning languages. Numerous studies have demonstrated that expanding your vocabulary and learning new languages is directly related to the cognitive process.
When you’re bilingual, your brain operates in a slightly different way, and such a difference can be quite beneficial for you. In this article, we’re going to consider the science-backed benefits of learning foreign languages so that you can figure out how learning can benefit you and help you achieve your specific goals.
When you learn a foreign language, you can reflect on the features of your native language and better understand how it works. You can compare the two languages and see the differences that were caused by different historical backgrounds and contexts. When you speak your native language, the chances are that you don’t really think of why a certain sentence has a particular type of structure, or how the words are created.
According to research that focused on the impact of second language education, learning a foreign language can help you improve your reading skills, grammar, and vocabulary when using your native language. The same effect is familiar to many athletes.
For example, when you play basketball, you can learn moves you may also use when playing volleyball. You can also compare offensive tactics and use this knowledge to come up with more effective approaches.
Scientists discovered the mechanisms you train when learning a new language can be used when dealing with many other tasks, as well. Learning languages enables you to learn faster. According to research, language learning works as a problem-solving exercise so it improves your ability to learn anything else.
Learning languages also improves memory retention. Therefore, learning languages as an exercise enables you to not only absorb more information but also retain it.
Another study focused on the impact of learning languages has on comprehension. Researchers used fMRI to observe people who knew more than one language while they were solving various word comprehension tasks. It turned out that bilingual and multilingual people demonstrated better results than those who only speak one language. For instance, multilingual people demonstrated a better ability to filter out competing words. In addition, they were more focused on the task.
An interesting thing about this study is that, while you may think that the results depend on whether a person is fluent in another language, or on how many languages they know, even the basic knowledge of a foreign language enabled the participants to demonstrate better results. Therefore, it’s important to keep learning, even if it seems like the chosen language is too difficult and you’re still too far from native speakers.
Perhaps, one of the most interesting things about learning foreign languages is that it can help you improve skills that have nothing to do with reading or writing. For instance, researchers found out that children who study a foreign language improve their math skills. Moreover, they outperformed other students even when language studies took time away from their math assignments.
Scientists also demonstrated how beneficial learning a second language can be, even if you don’t dedicate a lot of time to it. It turns out that students who learned another language for just one semester, spending only 90 minutes a week studying it, performed better not only when it comes to language but also when dealing with math tasks.
Perhaps, one of the reasons why learning a foreign language can help improve math skills is that you develop your structural and logical thinking, in general. Besides, many students who learn languages use various memorization techniques that can be very useful when dealing with math formulas and equations.
Learning a new language enables you to think differently. Different languages have different rules of grammar and follow different logical rules. Besides, when you’re learning a new language, you often need to look for synonyms and antonyms, especially when you don’t know what word you can use in a particular situation. You have to design sentences so that they will make sense to a listener, which means that you have to work on logical tasks.
Language learning enables you to improve your divergent thinking because you have to consider different problems and search for multiple solutions, choosing a certain solution depending on the context. People who learn languages deal with such tasks on a regular basis so they learn to think creatively. Therefore, there’s no surprise that researchers found multilingual people are more creative than monolingual people.
Most people don’t worry about brain diseases when they’re young. The situation, however, changes as we get older. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are some of the most common brain diseases that have a massive negative impact on the overall quality of life, and it turns out that learning new languages can help fight these diseases.
According to research, learning languages can delay dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by 4.5 years or even prevent their development. Moreover, even the most effective drugs can only delay the symptoms of these diseases by 6 to 12 months. It turns out that learning new languages creates new neural pathways in the brain so the brain can use more channels to process information.
This effect of learning languages is rather obvious but it’s nevertheless worth emphasizing. First, the main purpose of learning a foreign language is to get a new tool for communication. However, it also enables you to familiarize yourself with a new culture. Learning a language is also impossible without practice. You have to talk to native speakers, attend language meetups, or use conversation exchanges.
“Communication is also a skill, and you won’t be able to develop it if you don’t have enough practice. Learning a new language encourages you to communicate with people more often so you can not only learn how to speak another language but also how to communicate more effectively, in general,” adds Adam Simon, content writer at LegitWritingServices, a writing service review site and education blog.
According to research, learning a new language enables us to “rewire” the brain. The researchers worked with people who studied tonal differences between languages for one hour. It turns out that the learning process not only improves memory retention but also trains our brain to process new information, no matter what kind of information it is. As a result, the brain can process information faster and more effectively.
The most amazing discovery, however, is that learning foreign languages can increase the size of your brain. When you study a new language, your brain increases in mass. Another interesting thing is that it doesn’t happen when people study anything else.
Many people cannot make decisions quickly, and one of the most common reasons is that they tend to overthink. However, when you need to communicate in a foreign language, you have fewer opportunities to overthink. According to research, people are less likely to overthink when somebody asks them to make a decision in a foreign language. The differences between your native language and a foreign language force you to focus on the subject matter and to consider the most important aspects instead of overthinking.
No matter what goals you have, when you achieve them, it boosts your confidence. When you talk to a native speaker for the first time and feel that both of you enjoy the conversation and understand one another, you will become more confident. You will see that you can do something you couldn’t do before. It’s also important to manage your expectations and to be realistic about your capabilities so that you can set realistic goals. For instance, speaking with a perfect accent is an achievable goal, but you should understand that it’s impossible to achieve it quickly. Don’t compare your skills to those of native speakers because you may feel frustrated. We recommend that you evaluate your success by comparing your current skill level to where you were at before.
Learning a foreign language is a complex process that positively impacts your brain and personality in many ways. Scientists continue to discover more and more benefits to learning languages. However, they already have many impressive arguments that prove learning a new language is certainly a great idea. If you want to develop your communication skills, learn faster, memorize more information, and improve your cognitive process, just start to learn another language!
About the Author: The above post is a guest post from Rhonda Martinez. Rhonda Martinez is an English teacher for adults and senior editor at LegitWritingServices. Being a passionate educator, Rhonda never stops learning herself. She is always on the lookout for new, effective teaching practices and strategies.