How Learning a Second Language Boosts Cognitive Ability

You may be wondering how learning a second language can boost cognitive ability. Well, did you know there are incredible cognitive benefits to bilingualism, no matter your age?

It’s true! The benefits are endless!

From positive environmental changes in bilingual children to less cognitive decline in bilingual seniors, extensive studies have proven the neurological advantages of a second language. 

An article written by Dr. Ellen Bialystok, as well as Dr. Fergus Craik and Dr. Gigi Luk, published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, goes into detail on how bilingualism has effects on cognitive ability. In the article, they mention the studies that prove that bilingual advantages in executive function can affect people of all ages and in many different ways. For more information on this topic, click here!

When you start learning a language, you might be benefitting yourself more than you realize.

First of all, when communicating in a second language, the first language is actually still in use. You’ve essentially added another step to your communicating process – a quick, automatic translation. This phenomenon is known as language co-activation. 

When you hear any given term or word, the brain creates parallels and activates related words – in both languages.

This constant back-and-forth in the mind activates executive functionthe systems of control over actions, attentions, and behaviors. In tasks such as conflict management, bilingual individuals have been shown to perform better. In general, it is thought that neurological control and coordination increase with a language learned.

There is also evidence to support language learning affecting the brain in a structural way.

Using magnetic resonance imaging, researchers observed brain activity while a task is being performed. It was found that more structures than purely language centers were in used.

Bilingual individuals learning a third language actually have an easier time than monolingual (only speaking one language) people learning a second one. When the process begins, it is thought that familiarity with the language learning process makes it easier to pick up.

Among all the other benefits of language learning – helping with your studies, career, or environment – you might be improving your brain health, too! 

This is how learning a second language boosts cognitive ability. If you like this article, subscribe below to receive more content similar to this and check out our other blog posts!

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