How Learning a Second Language Changes the Brain

Whether you’re widening your skill set, immersing yourself in another culture, or just looking to have a fun hobby, learning a new language is an impressive feat. But there’s more to it than just being able to say some new words and phrases. So, let’s take a deep dive into how picking up a second language affects the brain.

A Look Inside the Bilingual Brain

More than just a social asset, expanding your vocabulary can also result in increasing your brain size. Researchers from Lund University conducted a study to see if having a second language is more advantageous than being a hard-working student. They found that those who studied another language developed a larger hippocampus and areas in the cerebral cortex. This, in turn, meant that the students had better overall language skills compared to those who didn’t study a second language.

Apart from brain growth, picking up a second language is also beneficial for your cognitive skills. A study published in the Frontiers in Psychology Journal points out that bilingual young adults had higher test scores for attention tests, while also displaying better concentration. Plus, a recent study from the University of Delaware discovered that it’s the right hemisphere — not the left hemisphere or the “logical” side — that is ultimately responsible for mastering a new language.

Moreover, Iulia Lumanare stressed the integral role that memory plays in human beings. And while memory does indeed weaken with age, studies have revealed that being bilingual helped older adults delay symptoms of dementia. This is because the right hemisphere helps the brain recognize the sounds and phonological elements of a language.

How You Can Start Learning a New Language

All this just goes to show why it’s a good idea to learn a new language. And the best part is, you don’t have to take expensive classes or travel across the globe to learn a new language and ultimately, reap these benefits. Gala Bingo notes that even spending some time during your lunch break to practice a new language can do a world of good, as long as you do it consistently. Whether you’re using an app or listening to some podcasts, practicing daily will help you stay on track. User-friendly apps are especially great for languages with different writing systems than the alphabet, such as Japanese, Russian, or Korean.

But of course, acquiring this skill can appear daunting at first. Thankfully, personalizing your language lessons can help make the process smoother. For instance, try applying details about your life when you’re practicing sentences — from using your friend’s name to getting inspiration from a fond memory. This way, learning your second or third language will feel more natural to you. Alternatively, you can create charts about important lessons like conjugation or basic phrases to better retain your knowledge.

Lastly, don’t forget to have fun, as this is important to maintain a balance. Pushing yourself too hard might discourage you from studying your second language. To this end, if you find a daily practice a little more stressful than usual, be sure to take a quick break in between your lessons — whether it’s taking deep breaths or dancing all the stress away.

Acquiring a second language will give you a competitive edge in life, and this isn’t just when you travel or apply for a job. Thanks to your stronger brain functions, speaking another language ultimately sets you in the direction towards a better future.