Language learning: a brain changer

 

If you want to keep your brain in shape, you should learn a new language. Swedish researchers at the University of Lund have shown that by submerging yourself in a new language, particular areas of your brain may expand.

Back in 2012, scientists studied young recruits at the Swedish Armed Forces Interpreter Academy, while they were learning a new language at lightning speed. They started learning Arabic, Russian or Dari without any prior knowledge of the language, and spoke it fluently after 13 months.

The same scientists also followed university students who studied as intensively, but who were not acquiring a new language. They noticed that language students saw specific areas of their brain grow, while the other students did not.

The enlarged areas were the hippocampus, the part of the limbic system involved in new learning and spatial planning, and three areas in the cerebral cortex (the brain stem).

Johan Martensson, a psychology researcher at Lund university stated: “We were surprised to find that different parts of the brain developed to a different extent, depending on how well students were doing and how much they have to work to be up to speed on a particular topic”.

Previously, research in Canada had already shown that bilingualism may slow Alzheimer’s progression. Bilinguals develop dementia three to four years later than people speaking only one language. And there are more studies to prove that bilingualism has certain advantages.

Martensson added: “Even if we cannot compare a 3-month, intensive language course with being bilingual your entire life, there are many elements that suggest that learning a language is a good way of keeping your brain in good shape”. This statement has been proven time an time again in subsequent studies.

So if you are learning a new language now, and are about to lose hope, look at it as your brain’s daily session at the gym and flex that muscle at dinner during your next international event. And your presentation? Leave that to the interpreters, they cannot wait to show some muscle and to bring your message across!

Do you want to pick our brains and turn your next multilingual event into a success?

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