Surprising Health Benefits of Learning a Second Language

In an increasingly connected world where the Web makes vast interactive caches of information available for free, there seems to be no excuse for not  learning something new everyday. And if you have been putting off mastering that foreign language for years, consider rethinking your decision  because learning a second language poses major benefits to your mental health and well being. Here are the most unexpected benefits you could be missing out on by remaining monolingual.

Offers Protection against Alzheimer’s Disease

Ghent University researchers explored bilingualism’s protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease (AD). In the paper entitled “Bilingualism delays clinical manifestation of Alzheimer’s disease,” which was published in the journal Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, it was revealed that the onset of AD symptoms is delayed by about four to five years among bilinguals compared to monolinguals.

This finding is consistent with those in earlier studies that confirmed how new language acquisition can provide crucial exercise for the gray cells of the brain. The mental workout helps prevent the brain’s gray matter from degenerating, thus slowing cognitive decline in old age. In fact, people who speak two languages possess more gray matter than monolinguals, according to the study, “Neuroanatomical Evidence in Support of the Bilingual Advantage Theory,” published in the journal Cerebral Cortex

Offers Protection against Dementia

Aside from delaying the onset of AD among susceptible individuals, bilingualism also protects against dementia, according to the study, “Bilingualism: consequences for mind and brain,” which was published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences. For bilinguals, the onset of dementia symptoms is delayed by years compared to their monolingual counterparts

Additionally, a large-scale study on the same subject revealed that bilingualism retards the onset of three types of dementia: frontotemporal dementia, vascular dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. The beneficial effects were independent of gender, occupation, education, as well as whether a person lives in an urban or a rural location, according to the pa per entitled “Bilingualism delays age at onset of dementia, independent of education and immigration status” that was published in the journal Neurology. No additional benefits were found among those who speak more than two languages.

Refines the Auditory Nervous System

A study published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed how the auditory nervous system of bilinguals is more fine-tuned than their monolingual counterparts The more refined auditory system of bilinguals aids in effectively managing linguistic input, which in turn improves working memory and attention.

Improves “Attentional Control”

Likely owing to the heightened level of attention produced by the enhanced receptiveness to linguistic input, bilingualism is also associated with better attentional control, according to a study published in the journal Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. The University of Birmingham researchers suggested that the lifelong practice of using two languages seems to improve a bilingual’s ability to maintain his attention.

Increases “Cognitive Flexibility”

A study that was jointly funded by the US National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation intuited that monolingual seniors expend more energy (and are therefore less efficient) when doing tasks related to cognitive flexibility. Cognitive flexibility is a measure of how well or how badly a person adapts to unexpected or unfamiliar situations. The heightened cognitive flexibility demonstrated by bilingual seniors may have  something to do with the lifelong mental stimulation generated by repetitively switching between two languages. This finding was reinforced by a  similar study, “Interference control at the response level: Functional networks reveal higher efficiency in the bilingual brain,” whose results were  published in the Journal of Neurolinguistics.

The Bottom Line

You might want to begin your forays into second-language acquisition by keeping in mind these useful tips. Here’s a PDF(httpzfiwwwimredufdowmloadslcounselinglA-5_How_to_Stuc from Texas Woman’s University and a webpage (,lart§indsciencesffilffll-tipsshtml)

full of advice from Southern Illinois University Edwards ville. It is never too late to start Iearning a new language.

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