If you dropped your college Spanish classes and gave up on the idea of learning a second language, you might want to reconsider. A parade of evidence continues to tout the health benefits of being bilingual, plus new applications like Duolingo make the process easier than ever. Here are the Top 10 from Health Fitness Revolution and author of the book ReSYNC Your Life Samir Becic:
Here’s as strong a case as any to learn a second language. A team of neuroscientists at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine had older people perform memory related tasks, such as attention shifting and sorting colors and shapes. Monolingual seniors’ brains worked harder to complete the tasks, while their bilingual peers performed more efficiently.
You can’t really learn to speak a new language unless you have others to talk to! Learning a new language encourages frequent social activity, pushing you out of your comfort zone. Socializing has numerous health benefits, from lowering risk of dementia to warding off depression. So join a study group or, better yet, travel to a different country!
To learn a language is to learn the history of a people. A language is the most expressive and intimate product of a culture. It gets you closer to what might be considered an insider view. That will change the way you think about the world, giving you new perspective and appreciation for different values and traditions. This, in turn, can help you learn more about yourself.
If we are to believe linguistic philosophers, language and vocabulary shape our understanding of the world. We can only process thoughts that we have words for. To learn another language, where vocabulary doesn’t quite overlap, unlocks ways of looking at the world.
You see nuances that you might have missed before. As you read poetry and talk to people you pick up new metaphors for explaining familiar phenomenon. The result of all this is that your brain starts working in more creative ways when you learn another language.
Improves Memory skills
A 2003 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology found “positive effects of bilingualism were found on both episodic memory and semantic memory at all age levels.” In other words, bilingual people have better memory recall on verbal and subject tasks, whether both in free recall and cued recall.
Learning a new language and then staying at home is a bit like buying a fast car and leaving it in your garage. It’s nice to have but you want the exhilarating thrill of using it! Whether you visit Paris with your college French class or go down to Argentina to put your Spanish to good use, travel is a natural part of being bilingual. Besides being fun and intensely rewarding, travel has many health benefits, from making you more active to expanding your mind.
Slows Brain Aging
It’s never too late to start learning a new language. A 2014 study published in the Annals of Neurology found that learning a second language, no matter at what age, is shown to slow improve later-life cognition.
Ok, this is a bit of a roundabout explanation but it still holds true. In today’s interconnected world, being bilingual is a strong attribute to put on your resume. Little surprise then that bilingual speakers earn more over their lifetime and have an easier time landing jobs. That means less time stressing about money and bills, a definite positive.
Faster Stroke Recovery
One of the most terrifying prospects of a stroke is living with reduced mental capacity after recovery. That risk might be minimized if you speak more than one language. Researchers find that the brain connection strengthens cognitive reserve, building a stronger interconnected brain.
Improves Critical Thinking
Solving a new language is like cracking a code. It requires you to activate parts of your brain that might otherwise be lying dormant. As you build a vocabulary, try to decipher what a confusing passage might mean, or work around a language gap, you learn to think in creative ways that might be helpful elsewhere in life.