Learning a new language can help you connect with new people, strengthen your understanding of other cultures and countries, and make life easier if you’re living or visiting abroad. It’s also a great way to challenge and strengthen your brain at any age! Here are some of the many cognitive benefits you could experience as a bilingual or multilingual speaker:
Do you need to learn about a difficult subject for your job or in an academic setting? Try tackling a new language while you’re at it. Learning a second language can improve learning outcomes — even in unrelated subjects. According to the British Academy, about 90% of the studies on this topic have demonstrated that students do better in English, math, science, and other subjects when they’re also studying a foreign language.
Creativity and flexibility
Creativity is a valuable cognitive quality for all areas of life — and you can give it a boost by studying a second language. The British Academy points to multiple studies that demonstrate improved problem-solving abilities, flexibility, and creative thinking among bilingual students. As you learn a new language, you’re adapting to new thought patterns, making new connections, and leaving behind old thinking habits — all of which are excellent fuel for creativity.
Your brain’s decision-making skills can benefit from foreign-language study. In multiple University of Chicago studies, researchers found participants made more rational financial choices after thinking the issue through in a foreign language they were fluent in. A possible explanation? The process of thinking through a decision in a different language can lead to a more objective and less emotional perspective on the situation.
Empathy and communication
Acquiring a second language could help you become a more empathetic person. As your understanding of a language’s grammar and vocabulary grows, you’ll learn how that language shapes the people who claim it as their own — and learn how to see life from their point of view. Per Cambridge University Press, studying a second language can also help your communication skills, strengthening your ability to understand other people’s perspectives and listen to them more effectively.
Learning a new language often helps you develop better focus. Why is this? According to research cited by Big Think, the process of engaging two languages at the same time requires bilingual speakers to pay close, constant attention while speaking and listening. This cognitively beneficial brain exercise can result in better overall concentration and an improved attention span.
Learning a new language exercises your brain by prompting it to make new neural connections and activating its lesser-used regions. As your brain works to memorize words and rules, remember what you’ve learned, and build on this knowledge to form written and spoken sentences, your memory will get a healthy workout. Along with improving your long-term and short-term recall right now, this can also make your mind less vulnerable to forgetfulness and dementia as you age.
Learning a new language can have immediate and practical benefits, but there’s far more to the picture. As you master another language, you also have a valuable opportunity to sharpen your thinking and improve your long-term cognitive health.