Famous scientist and philosopher Carl Sagan once said that “The brain is like a muscle. When it is in use, we feel very good. Understanding is joyous.” To keep the brain, most vital organ of our body fit and healthy, it needs to be exercised. Learning a new language can be an ultimate exercise package for your brain. Although, from acquiring the knowledge of a vast range of vocabularies, grammatical rules to using a new set of motor skills for pronunciation, it’s very hard work. However, despite this fact, from my personal experience, I can say that this journey may turn into a fresh joyful experience for you and can benefit you in many ways. Nowadays numerous contemporary psychological research and studies also seeming to mention the benefits of learning a new language. As they say, it brings some remarkable changes in our brain, it won't be exaggerating to say that it may inherently change our life!
Learning a language is a workout that involves many parts of our brain and thus plays a great role in our cognitive development. We can’t just memorize some new vocabulary, dialogues and claim that we have learned a language. In order to learn a language truly, we have to acquire the words, understand the complex rules of grammar, make a meaningful construction of words and express us. We have to practice muscle and motor skills delicately to prepare our tongue for the new set of pronunciation. My language teacher once said that for acquiring a language we have to be capable of thinking in that language! So, this laborious journey rewards us by boosting some of our capabilities. As an example, a study from the Pennsylvania State University showed that as multilingual peoples are good at switching between speech, writing and structures; they also become good at switching between different tasks. Thus multilingual people become good at multitasking. Some other research showed that multilingual people are good at decision making and planning. In the academic arena, multilingual speakers perform better on standardized tests than their peers. They have a better capability of concentrating.
Perhaps you have heard about the contemporary groundbreaking research which found that our brain is plastic (actually, it’s not made of plastic!). Neuroplasticity is the amazing ability of our brain to reorganize itself throughout our whole life. Whenever we learn something new we make new connections among neurons. Although, once it was believed that during our aging the connections in our brain become fixed. However, one particular research related to neuroplasticity of language learning showed MRI image of the increased size of the brain’s language center and the hippocampus. That area of the brain is responsible for forming, storing and retrieving memories. Isn't it amazing?! So, it’s only normal that multilingual are good at memorizing shopping list and older stuff of their life. Another study showed that knowing a second language can delay the memory loss problem related to Dementia and Alzheimer’s by 4.5 years.
Start life anew!
When we learn a language we just don’t learn only a language! We inherit a new culture, some history, livelihood and way of thinking of that language speaking people. It opens up a new horizon of possibility in front of us. Not to mention the opportunity of traveling, meeting & making some new friends and enrich yourself. An interesting research finding in 1960 showed that people’s mindset and personality can change based upon the language they are using. So, it is possible that by start learning a new language you can create a new mindset and booster in your life. Moreover, in this age of globalization, free market and international relation, competency in an extra language create new scopes in your career. Nowadays it’s very normal among graduate students throughout the world to learn a prominent language and have an uplift in their study and job life.
Is learning a second language good for my kid?
Yes, it is. Not just good, it improves their cognitive skill and gives them a head start in their life. As I mentioned earlier how a language learning makes you smarter in many ways, those are also applicable for your kid. Although earlier there was this myth about learning a second language hindering children’s intellectual growth, it just proved wrong. The children raised in the multilingual home environment may grasp things a bit slowly but as time passes by they quickly adapt and start showing better performances. In 2004 a study on monolingual and bilingual children found that the bilingual children were quicker at performing mental tasks such as sorting objects on a computer screen by color and shape. Other studies revealed that bilingualism improves the brain’s ability to plan, solve problems and perform mentally challenging tasks.
Can I start learning at this late age?
Of course, you can. Remember what I discussed earlier about our brains neuroplasticity? This capability allows us to start learning anything at any age. It’s just a matter of your strong will. You never fully know how this little attempt changes your life in many ways! For sure, learning a new language at late age improve your mental health. It may reset your mood and bring some fresh perspective over your life.
Remember the saying, “An idle mind is the devil's workshop”?! So, if you have much time to kill and don’t have a clue about what to do with your life, filled with depression but with a little spec of hope left somewhere in you to start a new life, then take my advice; start with learning a new language. Start turning the table with it. However, if you don’t fall in this category then you may make a little room and also start learning a new language! Nonetheless, learning a new language will only end up enhancing your brain to a great deal. Ciao!