It’s All In Your Head: Brain and Foreign Languages

Wiktor K. March 11, 2013 1

"Does Not Work"

If your brain is “the only weapon worth possessing,” then foreign languages are certainly the right kind of ammunition. Now – on Brain Awareness Week – let’s find out: how does learning a foreign language affect your brain?

1. The great unknown: you don’t know your brain

President Obama announced a month ago that he wants to fund a big brain-mapping research project. It will take ten years at least – but until then, we will know very little about how brains work.
And, to be honest, we may know very little after the project has run its course. Every brain is unique, as are the experiences stored in our memory. So is there hope for science? And is there anything that a foreign language learner can glean from knowing more about brains?
Hell yeah. Here’s the awesome stuff.

2. Learn a language, your brain will thank you

Language learning can help your brain grow. It can also slow down the initial symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. This is science, and I guess all polyglots read that already.
Here’s something that science may not have told you. It’s a very subjective list, but it will do:
Learning a foreign language can be like falling in love
Bilingualism helps your business skills
Polyglots are smarter
Bilingual folks may have more of a critical thinking disposition
We could go on (and if you’re currently investigating something like that, I’d like to hear that!) – but for now, let’s just celebrate two things: your amazing brain and your super-cool decision to use it to learn a foreign language!

3. Keep your brain in shape

So, now that you’re reassured you’re doing the right thing, you can relax, safe in the knowledge that your brain is perfect, right…? WRONG. Sorry to break it to you, keen linguist. You still need to take care of your brain.
There are lots of things in the media nowadays that are said to be harmful to your grey matter. Funnily enough, a few weeks later these things are cited as being actually, you know, kinda good for your brain as well.
So read this advice. The list was compiled by people who do research into Alzheimer’s disease. Between them and the next blogger who needs a catchy topic (like me), I think I know who to trust.

What are your brain tricks, polyglots? How do you show off your neuro-linguistic prowess? The comment section is yours.

(Photo credit: Creative Commons License David Goehring via Compfight)

Thanks for reading this. If you found this blog post useful, please share it – Wiktor

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One Comment »

  1. Mariola March 29, 2013 at 8:19 pm -

    Wow an interesting articel!:) keepimg brain in shape is definitely the solution:)