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How a Second Language Can Boost the Brain

Learn a new language, and your brain grows! The hippocampus and cerebral cortex increase in size and grey matter density, and the connections between neurons in these regions become more muscular and expand over time. This, in turn, enhances executive functions like working memory, attention, focus, and filtering external distractions. Those benefits are not just noticeable for younger people – they also boost the brain of older adults. As a bonus to this article, we provide a paper help promo code for any academic papers. 

What are the benefits of bilingualism?

The cognitive benefits of bilingualism can start in early childhood and can last throughout life. Or they can start in adulthood, depending on when the person began to add a second language to his or her daily life.

 The first major advantage is what is loosely called executive function. It describes the skills that allow you to control, direct and manage your attention as well as your ability to plan. It also helps you ignore unnecessary information and focus on what is important. Because a bilingual person is bilingual and the languages are activated automatically and subconsciously, the person constantly manages language switching so that he or she does not say the wrong word in the wrong language at the wrong time.

The cells responsible for this area of the brain are also used when you are trying to perform a task during which you are distracted. This might be trying to listen to something in a noisy environment or discerning a particular person in a busy crowd. The muscle memory developed by using two languages can also be applied to a variety of skills.

Where do these benefits express themselves in the brain?

The controlling functions are the most complex. Brain functions are the most “human” functions that separate us from apes and other animals. They are often observed in the most evolutionarily novel parts of the brain:

  • In the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for advanced processing;
  • in the bilateral supramarginal gyrus, which plays a role in linking words and meanings;
  • in the anterior cingulate gyrus.

First of all, we see an increase in the volume of gray matter. The brain is made up of cells called neurons, each with a cell body and small branching connections called dendrites. Gray matter refers to the number of cell bodies and dendrites. The bilingual experience makes the gray matter denser, so you get more cells. This is an indicator of a healthier brain.

Muscle memory developed from learning a second language.

Studies have shown that speaking a second language develops muscle memory. When you talk and hear a new language, your brain slowly makes the language part of its muscle memory. You can use this memory for tasks such as listening in a noisy environment or visual studies. Learning a new language develops your attention and increases your brain’s capacity for higher-level functions. It is a natural process and can make you a better listener and speaker.

Developing muscle memory is a natural process that most people use. It is the process by which we learn a new skill and then repeat it as a reflex. Studies show we can form muscle memory even by seeing the same task performed. The more we practice, the more deeply we embed that action into our memory. Learning a second language is one example of this phenomenon. It can also be applied to other activities, such as riding a bike.

Increased number of neural pathways between parts of the brain

Neuroimaging studies have shown that individuals who learn a second language have more excellent connectivity in several brain areas. These changes correlate with the learning of novel words. Bilinguals also have more connectivity in the DMN. These findings suggest that bilingualism may facilitate the understanding of additional languages. However, further research is necessary before causal connections can be determined. Until then, the effects of second language acquisition can only be speculated.

According to PaperHelp, The increased activity in the angular gyrus of the brain may be the main reason for the increase in the number of brain cells. These cells are responsible for complex language activity, including reading and writing, and contextualizing visually perceived language. In addition to these brain cells, researchers have also found that speaking more than one language positively impacts the development of specific brain regions.

Slower progression of cognitive diseases

There is evidence that patients with a second language may have a slower progression of cognitive diseases, including Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, and Parkinson’s. A recent study found that older patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) may have a lower risk of slow progress. The study also found a strong association between learning a second language and reducing the risk of cognitive decline.

Improved working memory

The benefits of multilingualism are numerous, reflected in how children learn to speak a new language. Among other things, bilingualism enhances the ability of children to perform language-dependent memory tasks, which involves matching spoken language with a specific memory language. Working memory helps acquire new vocabulary and in global language development, and its improved function directly impacts elementary school children’s word meanings.

One study looked at the relative contributions of English language training to the development of working memory after learning a second language. The researchers randomly assigned EFL students to one of three experimental groups. The dual-intervention group received five weeks of both ELT and WMT. Compared to the first-year group, this group retained the training effects on both vocabulary and working memory but did not experience significant gains in grammar and vocabulary.

How to develop language skills

1. Keep your childlike spontaneity, be open to new experiences

Scientists say that linguistically gifted people are more “open to new experiences” than those who are less gifted. People whose boundaries of the linguistic ego are more transparent – such as children or people who are tipsy – are freer to express themselves linguistically and can more easily master the phonetics of a new language.

Be inquisitive, spontaneous, and open to new knowledge!

2. be flexible and observant

When learning a foreign language, it is important to be observant and imitate the speech of others, not only the accent but also gestures, intonation, and timbre.

3. Use the “stalking technique.”

It is effective to pronounce the sounds of a foreign language (most often when listening to a recording) at the same moment you hear them. “Pursuit” activates the phonological loop, the part of short-term memory responsible for speech sounds. And according to scientists, this technique is more effective than the popular “listen and repeat” technique. 

The Two Sides of Language Knowledge

Is it useful to learn foreign languages “in bulk,” or is it better to stop at one or more?

On the one hand, most languages are similar in their basic structure, and learning them in parallel will be easier, using the method of associative links for those people for whom logical thinking prevails over the rest. On the other hand, it really is an additional load, which leads to quick overwork, and information overload. If a person is placed in an environment isolated from all outside influences, where only foreign languages will be studied, in short time approaches, with periods of rest, in this way the assimilation of new information will be accelerated. But such incubator conditions, as one can imagine, are utopian.

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