At E-QIP, we are—naturally—big proponents of picking up new languages. Language acquisition offers learners the chance to experience different cultures, explore new job opportunities or simply live more comfortably amongst speakers of other languages.
But if that’s not enough to convince you, there’s a whole other set of reasons to get yourself to a language class. There are countless mental benefits of learning a language, some of which are more significant than others. A 2018 study out of Montreal’s Concordia University, for example, backed up the hypothesis that knowledge of multiple languages can actually help to counteract the effects of Alzheimer’s.
And that’s just one of the advantages. Here are the top five ways that learning a language helps keep your brain sharp:
As per the Concordia study mentioned above, having knowledge of more than one language utilizes and strengthens the parts of the brain that are impacted by Alzheimer’s and mild cognitive impairment (a condition that increases the risk of later developing Alzheimer’s or dementia). Think of it like a workout for your brain: by exercising the parts that could be compromised down the line, you’re helping to offset later damage, like a person with a family history of heart disease maintaining a good cardio routine. Best of all, this is one exercise you can do without ever breaking a sweat.
It’s not just those with Alzheimer’s and dementia whose memories are improved by language acquisition. Learning a language offers memory benefits for everyone, which makes sense; when you learn a language, you have to stretch your memory to include a whole new set of vocabulary and grammar rules. In a study conducted on bilingual and monolingual five-year-olds, the bilingual children were shown to do better on memory games.
Picking up a new language improves your understanding of how language works in general—all the minute details and rules that monolinguals (who have come into their grasp of language organically) don’t have to think about. That knowledge can be applied to new languages as well as your mother tongue and help to polish your writing, editing and verbal communication skills.
After you make the decision to study a second language, you may find that all subsequent decisions come a little easier to you. A University of Chicago study observed that knowledge of multiple languages can help you make better decisions—especially when you mentally weigh your options in a non-native language. That’s because contemplating decisions in a foreign tongue creates emotional distance from issues, thus allowing for a more objective approach.
According to a study out of Pennsylvania State University, the mental balancing act required to keep track of multiple languages translates into an increased ability to juggle other tasks as well. The study found that fluently bilingual speakers are adept at adapting the language they use to the people they’re speaking to—using a fluid blend of both languages with other bilinguals, for example, and naturally choosing the words in each language that will best convey their thoughts, a strategy they’re also able to employ when prioritizing tasks.
Improved concentration, standardized test scores, creativity and observation skills have also been shown to be stronger in multilingual speakers, and with language resources available throughout Montreal, there’s no reason not to reap the benefits!