Many different studies explore and investigate the connection between the brain and language, since there are many questions we’ve been wondering about. How does the brain learn a language? Does language learning change your brain? Let’s have a look and find out!
- 1.Brain and language: how does it work?
- 2.Why learning a new language is good for the brain (at any age)
- 3.How does language learning affect the brain?
- 3.1.It increases the size of your brain
- 3.2.It strengthens your concentration
- 3.3.It keeps you young
- 3.4.It boosts your memory
- 4.Being bilingual affects your brain
Brain and language: how does it work?
The brain is crucial in defining who we are as human beings, and so is the language we speak. It is important to remember that we identify a right side and a left side of the brain, the so-called hemispheres. Recent studies told us that, in about 97% of the people, language-related brain activity relies on the left side of the brain. Some people use a mix of both sides and, rarely, the right hemisphere is used for language-related brain activity.
It is also commonly known that our brain is divided into different regions, including the Broca’s area, the Angular gyrus, the Wernicke’s area, the Insular cortex. Each one of these regions has a different purpose, and they all work together as one coordinated network to process words and word sequences to understand a language. At the same time, they make us capable to produce language.
The different parts of the brain get activated based on some distinct linguistic elements. According to Ping Li, a professor of Psychology and Linguistics at Pennsylvania State University, obtaining full knowledge of a language includes:
- Remembering the words (lexicon)
- Learning the sound system (phonology)
- Acquiring the writing system (orthography)
- Learning the grammar (syntax)
- Picking up the subtle way to express oneself (pragmatics)
Why learning a new language is good for the brain (at any age)
Regardless of your age, learning a new language is always good for your brain. In fact, whether the learner is a kid, an adult or an elder, the challenge of learning a foreign language represents a perfect way to gain new abilities and to keep your brain functions active.
While kids adapt more naturally to language teaching, older people can make use of their experience to learn more easily: learning a new language doesn’t get harder with age, it just gets different. In fact, the brain will respond positively to the stimulation of language learning no matter what age you are. Moreover, learning a new language will improve your memory, which makes the process even easier.
How does language learning affect the brain?
A process of language learning radically restructures the brain. Speakers of different languages develop different cognitive skills and predispositions, as shaped by the structures and patterns of their languages. Now, we're going to look more closely at all the benefits that language learning has on our brain (and there are quite a few!).
1. It increases the size of your brain
We can exercise to increase the volume of our muscles, the same goes for our brain. It is a concept called brain training, and it tells us that if subjected to regular proper stimulation, the brain can literally increase in size. Studies show that language learning is one of the best ‘brain workouts’ that you could do to achieve this goal.
2. It strengthens your concentration
Concentration is defined as the ability to focus on something, giving it all of your attention and leaving the rest outside. People who speak more than one language seem to have stronger concentration abilities. This might be related to the fact that the process of learning two languages and switching back and forth between them trains the brain to be more aware of auditory information.
3. It keeps you young
No, it’s no long-life elixir. However, language learning does have a positive effect on the way your brain ages, since it slows down the ageing process of your brain. Scientists have discovered that learning more than one language can delay the onset of some neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer and other forms of dementia.
4. It boosts your memory
No doubt there’s a lot to remember when learning a whole new way to communicate. As mentioned before, our brain acts in a way that is not too different from the way our muscles work, being capable to train and improve. When you learn a new language, your brain needs to use areas that people who speak just one language normally don’t use. Hence, both short-term memory and long-term memory get stronger and improve if you speak more than one language.
Being bilingual affects your brain
It is now clear that speaking more than one language affects your brain positively. Bilingual people are proven to benefit from different advantages such as social, psychological, health and lifestyle advantages. It has been estimated that more than half of the world population – around 60-75% - speaks at least two languages.
If you also want to improve not just your job possibilities and your ability to travel around the world, but also your brain’s skills, you should know that coLanguage offers language lessons in more than 40 different languages. Sign up, choose a language and get your brain benefits!