Brainwell® Blog

Learning Multiple Languages Can Build Your Brain In Many Ways

What if you knew that learning a new language wouldn’t only help you get around in a foreign land – but also make better decisions on spending that strange currency in your pocket? Or make you less likely to fall for that tempting exotic ad?

All that might sound a bit far-fetched, but according to several studies, it’s entirely possible. Learning and speaking more than one language can make you a smarter, savvier all-around person. One of those studies suggests that speaking more than one language constantly exercises the brain, making it more prepared to take on other tasks.

Multillingual = Multi-talented

“Multi-linguals” tend to be more open and exposed to not only multiple languages, but the unique and diverse cultures that surround and influence each of those languages. It turns out that multilingualism also offers a wide array of amazing side effects.

Studies show that multi-linguals often score better on standardized tests – particularly in math, reading, and vocabulary. They’re better at remembering lists and sequences – likely from learning vocabulary and grammatical rules. They’re more perceptive to their surroundings – and more skilled at honing in on important information.

According to one study, multi-linguals are also more resistant to framing and conditioning techniques, making them less likely to be manipulated by verbiage in advertisements or political speeches.

Multi-lingual people have even been observed to be more self-aware shoppers and spenders, viewing “real” (as in cash) and “hypothetical” (like, say, credit cards) money in a more similar light than their “monolingual” contemporaries. Researchers in the spending study posited that subjects had less of an emotional reaction to things heard in their second language, which empowers a more rational decision.

Language Learning = Brain Building

In 2012, a Swedish MRI study demonstrated that learning a foreign language has measurable effects on your brain.

At the Swedish Armed Forces Interpreter Academy, young recruits learned a language – Arabic, Russian or Dari – at a rapid pace. A control group of medical and cognitive science students also studied hard, but avoided language learning.

By measuring the students’ brains before and after the three-month language training, researchers observed the effects on the brain when one learns a new language over a short

period. The MRI scans showed that specific parts of the language students’ brains developed in size – whereas the brain structures of the control group remained unchanged.

Another insight that emerged was that students whose brains grew in the hippocampus and areas of the cerebral cortex related to language learning had better language skills than other students, for whom the motor region of the cerebral cortex developed more. The areas of the brain that grew were linked to how easy the learners found languages, and brain development varied according to performance.

Brain Language Bulking

It’s Never Too Late…

Another study led by Dr. Thomas Bak of Edinburgh’s School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences demonstrated that learning a second language may help improve brain function – regardless of the age at which you start learning.

Researchers in that study found that young adults proficient in two languages performed better on attention tests, and demonstrated better concentration, than those who spoke just one language. Those results were also irrespective of whether or not they had learned that second language during infancy, childhood, or teen years.

The bottom line is that it’s never too late to learn a new language – and it’s never too late to train, refine, and build your brain. Knowing that the two activities are so closely related makes it all even more exciting.