Learning A Second Language Can Give Your Brain A Boost

Most people would already describe someone who knows multiple languages as a smart person, but there’s new research that shows learning and knowing more than one language can have a deeper impact on the way your brain works than previously believed.

Photo by Jean & Nathalie.

In reality, people who know multiple languages are able to monitor their surroundings better and switch between mental tasks faster, and those benefits extend from the early years to old age — and you can harness them even later in life by picking up a new language.

In its examination of the topic, the New York Times points to a trio of studies, one from 2004 and published in the journal Developmental Science from researchers at the York University that indicated bilingual individuals are more adept at certain mental challenges and tasks than people who only know one language.

Newer research being conducted at the University of Pompeu Fabra in Spain, however, shows that people who know multiple languages process their surroundings in a different way and respond more rapidly to mental tests that require them to shift focus in ways completely unrelated to language. Unlike previous research that implied the biggest bang for your cognitive buck comes from learning a second language at a young age, this new study implies that people who learn a language later in life may also be able to reap those sharp-minded benefits.

In the end, it’s very possible that being bilingual (or even a polyglot) may make you smarter in more ways than just the fact that you know another language, and may give you more of a leg up than being able to add another language to your resume normally would. For more information on the research, check your the full story below. Do you know multiple languages? Are you planning to learn a new one? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

The Benefits of Bilingualism [New York Times]

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