Best Anti-Aging Activity: Study a Foreign Language!
When adults wonder why they should dedicate time to learning a foreign language, teachers and experts generally focus on different benefits, most of them social or practical: better job opportunities; better salaries; a broader understanding of the world; more confidence to travel anywhere and experience new cultures; the chance to meet people from other countries or use social networks more effectively, etc.
However, very little is explained about one of the most important reasons why adults should start learning foreign languages: speaking more than one language can keep our brains in good shape for longer and even help them function better.
Understanding and being able to produce a foreign language means acquiring a new complex system of rules to grasp how words combine to make phrases, the ability to make sentences and understand how they are pronounced, also, and most importantly, to learn how to comprehend and create messages that convey the desired meaning. These processes are triggered in our brains in different ways which make us practice them. Have you ever thought that just as our bodies need physical exercises to be fit, our brains do too?
Different scientific studies have shown how advantageous it is for the adult brain to learn a foreign language: it thickens a layer of neurons that are responsible for thought, language, memory, and consciousness producing a lot of benefits. The following are only a few mentioned in those studies.
As an adult, you have learned how to learn: you know what learning strategies are good for you and what would be a waste of time, which makes you better students than a child or even a young person.
1) Better cognitive flexibility: this means bilingual people can adapt themselves to a new or unexpected situation faster than monolinguals because learning a new language develops new areas of their mind and enhances their ability to focus and process information.
2) Improves memory and makes you a more conscious thinker: once you have come across new words or structures, you have to remember and apply them, an exercise that strengthens your memory and increases creativity.
3) Hone listening skills and makes the mind work at its peak: in order to hear, understand, interpret, and produce sounds typical of the new language, learners have to spot ambiguous information and distinguish relevant from irrelevant data.
4) Increase attention and decision-making abilities: The new language has expressions and idioms with different meanings, which makes the learner think about what is appropriate for a certain situation and what would be offensive for the native speaker.
5) Build multitasking skills: Bilingual people develop the skill to switch between two systems of speech, writing, and structure – that of their own language and that of the target language. Switching between different structures makes them good at multitasking.
6) Protects against dementia and Alzheimer’s: The causes of these diseases are not well known, but medical studies have determined that learning a second language can prevent their appearance or slow down their effects.
The above examples all show that continuing to learn in adulthood is beneficial for the health and for happiness.
So, why not challenge yourself to prove that these benefits work for you too! Just go for it and share your results with other adult learners.
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