Being bilingual is an advantage that many companies are seeking in today's global business world, and it's a skill that many colleges hold in high regard as well. There's a lot to like about what learning a second language does for an individual, and this even goes well beyond the obvious advantages of being able to speak fluently in two languages. Studies show the benefits go into other areas of academics and thinking, to being able to find creative solutions to problems, and even in creating positive changes in the very matter that makes up the brain.
Learning a Second Language Literally Changes Your Brain
This is a recent discovery that can be more thoroughly followed up on because of modern technology like brain scans, and how those tools and that technology just keeps getting better. One of the first things that really jumped out is that bilingual individuals have much denser gray matter in the language section of the brain than those who only speak one language.
What does this mean? Basically, it means that entire area of the mind is not only larger and more expanded, but the overall skills of a person improve in every area that uses that section of the brain. This includes pattern recognition, learning vocabulary and using their own native language, and thinking more analytically than those individuals who have never learned a second language.
In addition to the gray matter, some studies seem to indicate that:
- Bilinguals can focus on two tasks more easily
- They think much more analytically
- The memory section of the brain is larger
- The reasoning section of the brain is larger
- The section of your brain that deals with planning is larger
Considering a language takes four areas of the brain (Auditory Cortex, Broca's Area, Wernicke's Area, Motor Cortex), it should not come as a surprise that so much of the mind can change because of learning another language, but this just scratches the surface.
That's an impressive array of actual brain changes - and all of them are definitely a positive.
Many Benefits to Becoming Bilingual
These benefits of a stronger and larger brain come out in many different ways. Bilingual individuals often have a higher IQ and can multi-task much easier.
For individuals with a history of dementia or Alzheimer's in their family, it is worth noting that those who learn one or more non-native languages also seem to realize a slower progression into the various stages of dementia if they are ever diagnosed. Studies continue to explore why this relationship might exist, but it does go to show how an extremely active brain makes all the difference when it comes to staving off some of the afflictions that can come with old age. Even before old age, your memory tends to improve. A better memory is useful for just about anything, whether in the academic world or the business world. It also doesn't hurt when traveling or simply enjoying life.
Even decision making seems to improve once you learn another language. What more can you ask for?
Learn That Second Language!
The benefits of being bilingual are incredible, and many of these positive changes are the types that will also affect other areas of life. From finding the right career to being able to pick up skills faster and more thoroughly, the mental and physical changes that come with learning a new language can set off a cascade of positive effects for anyone who dedicates themselves to studying and growing as a linguist.
About the Author
Anabela Barros is a professional who runs nacel London, a popular language immersion program offering students opportunities to live abroad and learn English as a second language. To learn more about these exciting programs, visit nacelesl.co.uk