Language learning is good for your brain

Here is yet another report that shows that language learning is good for your brain. Apparently any amount of language learning is good for you. You do not need to reach a high level of fluency. Here are some excerpts.

The report identifies six areas in which the multilingual mind differs in some way to the monolingual mind…..

Most of the advantages ­described support overall competence-building for life and work in modern, information-rich, internet environments.

The benefits reported include enhanced capacity for learning whereby knowledge of languages can lead to superior memory function, especially short-term “working” memory. This enables the brain to hold information longer while the thinking processes are engaged, which can have a profound impact on cognitive function. One implication is the positive impact of languages on the learning of other subjects.

Another cluster concerns enhanced mental flexibility. This involves neural pathways being opened up, which extends the capacity to think and opens access to differing avenues for thought. Languages appear to exercise the brain as if it were a muscle and flexibility links directly to the development of digital literacies. For instance, some of the research in this area looks at the advantages of language knowledge in relation to the speed and accuracy of decision making when using multimedia such as gaming.

Enhanced problem-solving capability is also reported. This involves superior performance in problem solving, which is cognitively demanding, including abstract thinking skills, higher concept formation skills and creative hypothesis formulation. It is about strengthening our capacity to identify, understand and solve problems.

Finally the study reports on research that links knowledge of languages to a slowdown of age-related mental diminishment such as certain forms of dementia. Language knowledge appears to reduce the rate of decline of certain cognitive processes as a person ages, by helping the brain tolerate pathologies. This resistance to neuropathological damage is considered to be in the range of two to four years. Delays in mental decline of even up to six months are viewed as having considerable implications for individuals, their families and public health.


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