5 Important Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language
There are many reasons to learn a new language beyond earning some required school credits or reading the street signs on your next trip abroad. A new language can make a student as young as five years old more caring, more intelligent and an all-around amazing individual. Here are just 5 of many important benefits of learning a foreign language.
A Bigger, Better Functioning Brain
A person who is bilingual can honestly claim to have a better brain. Scientists in Sweden used an MRI scan to look at the physical effects that language lessons can have on young craniums. The results were clear – a second language makes for a larger brain.
The young learners who focused on a new language had visible growth in the hippocampus; a part of the brain that controls emotional development, long-term memory and spatial navigation.
Other results included growth in the cerebral cortex sections in charge of language learning. Other studies have observed an increase in grey matter, which helps the brain with executive functions. Want your little one to be a more well-rounded learner? Make language a part of their day.
Improved ‘Mother Tongue’ Mastery
While many think of language lessons as something that should come later in life, the truth is that children between three and eight years old can soak up a new set of words and see the results in their native language.
When children study Spanish or any language new to them, they start to see their own language differently. Time with new grammar helps them see mistakes in written English, helps them communicate more clearly and have an easier time reading and writing. Many children who learned a second language at a younger age had an easier time learning to read in their mother tongue.
Monolingual children are extremely empathetic and sensitive, but those who get a chance to express themselves in a new way get a different perspective; one from a new person whom they’ve never met.
Learners raised in bilingual environments, or who get the chance to speak in more than one language, are more aware of other countries and different means of expression. They aren’t intimidated by the sound of a new language and are more likely to be curious or understanding. They also consider another person’s perspective instead of rejecting it. That is learning at its finest.
Possible Delay of Alzheimer’s and Dementia
As mentioned before, speaking more than one language can make for a bigger and better brain. But did you know that bilingualism may also help slow or possibly resist cognitive brain issues associated with aging? According to several studies, regularly speaking more than one language forces structural changes in the brain as it is required to work harder. Over time, the brain develops a “cognitive reserve” which makes the bilingual brain stronger and, as a result, may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and/or dementia.
We all want what’s best for our children. We encourage healthy habits like eating well and engaging in physical exercise as there are known long-term effects. Learning to speak another language certainly has brain health benefits and is another way to set your child up for a healthy future.
As we become more reliant on technology, the workplace is changing and the demand for creative, unusual thinkers is on the rise. How do we keep that right brain working hard? We expose it to language.
Many evaluations of bilingual children have shown them to be better at solving problems than those who never learn a second language. Because they use parts of their brain more often and in different ways than their classmates, they feel more confident tackling a new challenge.
These are just 5 important benefits of learning a foreign language. Have more to add to this list? Feel free to share with the HSA community in the comments below!