Thanks to globalization, learning a language creates more opportunities than ever before. Better jobs, higher revenues, the chance to travel more and to understand different cultures. With more companies looking to expand to global markets, the demand for people who speak more than one language has grown a lot in the past years.
But that’s not all. Learning a language can improve more than your financial situation. It seems bilinguals are healthier and happier than their monolingual counterparts. Even better, people who speak two, three or more languages are more active as they get older, as aging has less negative effects on their brains.
Learning a language is like going to a mental gym. Your brain gets stronger, as you learn to think and to express yourself in a different language. In the long run, you’ll be more creative and improve your cognitive abilities. As you grow older, something as simple as learning a second language can help you fight against brain degeneration. Let’s take a closer look.
Learning A Language Improves Brain Function
When you learn a new language, you’re helping your brain to get stronger. Scientists at the Penn State University discovered that learning a language strengthens your brain. This is the result of using brain centers to identify and understand content and context of various messages. Brain networks become more flexible, allowing you to learn faster and be more efficient when working.
The same study showed that language learning increases the density of the gray matter – responsible for muscle control, memory, emotions and sensory perception. When you learn a foreign language, you teach your brain to recognize meanings. In simple words, you become more intelligent! Which means you learn to approach tasks in a more efficient manner in the long run.
Similar research shows that bilingualism improves mental skills. People who speak more than one language are able to switch tasks faster – just like they learn how to pass from one language to another when speaking.
So, when you speak two or more languages, you teach your brain to evaluate and deal with life situations in a more efficient manner. You may seem slower at making a decision, but in the end, your solutions prove to be more effective than those of monolinguals. This is because you get better at finding new and creative ways to approach challenges.
You also learn to prioritize and ignore irrelevant information. This way, you manage to keep focused on your task, despite distractions. When you’re an expert in information management, you deal with less stress and can become more productive.
You Protect Your Brain Against Dementia
Learning a language stimulates the brain like few other activities do. Bilinguals have a better memory, as a result of their well trained brains. This ability comes in hand in everyday life and it also has long term benefits.
Bilinguals have better chances when fighting against brain damage caused by aging. One of the largest studies on the impact of bilingualism confirms that people who speak at least two languages develop dementia later in life than monolinguals.
Bilinguals also have better chances against Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia and vascular dementia. Dr. Thomas Bak, of Edinburg University, also confirms that bilingualism can be even more efficient than many drugs in fighting brain degeneration.
In the past, scientists believed language learning was good if you did it at early ages. Yet, new studies show that you can improve your brain and memory at any age through language learning.
In fact, another study by Dr. Thomas Bak shows that learning a language can also help patients recover after a stroke. The research showed that language learning has benefits for the brain, no matter what age you start studying.
Bilinguals Are Happy People
Learning a new language is, after all, achieving a goal. Every time you meet a milestone, you feel happy about your new abilities. It’s not just a myth. Studies show that understanding the meaning of new words activates the ventral striatum, a region of the brain that reacts to positive emotional stimuli (the same region is activated by people we love, eat chocolate and have sex).
Overcoming language barriers makes us happy. Beyond personal achievements, it allows us to socialize with people from different cultures. Language has an important influence on the way we communicate with the people around us.
Happiness and positive emotions have an important role in our health. Psychology Professor Sheldon Cohen, of Carnegie Mellon University, discovered that there’s a direct connection between happiness and people’s ability to deal with illness.
According to his research, happy people who experience positive emotions have less chances of catching a cold. And, when they do, they deal with fewer symptoms than people who have negative emotions.
Learning a Language Makes You More Confident
It’s no secret that people who learn a new language feel good about themselves. Every new word they understand is a personal victory that increases self-esteem and self-confidence.
You need discipline and mental abilities to go back and forth between different sets of grammar and syntax rules, every time you change languages. These characteristics make you an efficient worker and an important player inside a team. Bilinguals have no difficulties in evaluating themselves and their real potential.
This, together with a better connection between parts of the brain, make bilinguals more confident about their abilities and more creative. Learning a language helps you grow as a person, both in your personal and professional life.
Bilinguals get away from their comfort zones every time they have to speak with a native speaker. This experience teaches them to take risks and make decisions even in difficult moments. With time, this increases your self-confidence and gives you the motivation you need to take on new challenges.
Self-confidence helps you counter obstacles and meet your goals. It also allows you to connect with people easier, potentially making you happier. A confident person tends to have good mental health, as a result of dealing with less stress and anxiety.
Bilinguals Are Young and Healthy for A Long Time
When you speak a second language, you improve your lifestyle. This adds to better chances of getting a good job, traveling more and higher compensation, while improving your health!
Besides making your brain bigger and stronger, a new language will help you improve your multitasking skills and increase your productivity. It also gives a new meaning to the words ‘self-esteem’ and ‘self-confidence’.