The Cognitive Benefits of Learning Multiple Languages
Bilingualism is the ability to use two languages equally well. Studies show that those who speak multiple languages experience many cognitive benefits later in their life compared to monolinguals. While this may sound like a bit of an obvious fact now, there was actually a time where it was argued that bilingual children were thought to suffer cognitive impairments later in life. Mark Antoniou of Western Sydney University in Australia discusses how bilingualism might benefit our brains, especially as we age. Learning a second language improves memory and enhances concentration which further prevents cognitive decline at old age.
The prevention of cognitive decline later in life is the most significant long-term effect of learning another language. Cognitive decline is an inevitable experience as we age. Studies have shown that “...language learning engages an extensive brain network that is known to overlap with the regions negatively affected by the aging process.” This even means language learning potentially reduces dementia. The areas of our brains that work together to learn language overlap with the areas in the brain that show cognitive decline. Ultimately, learning a second language promotes healthy aging.
When someone learns another language, they are using both conscious and subconscious parts of their brain, improving executive function. The combination of these two together control and manage how one's attention and how to manage and plan thoughts. Additionally, it helps ignore irrelevant information while focusing on the important details. This "muscle memory" that gets developed comes in use and gets applied during different tasks which are non-language related. Learning another language activates the brain to manage control mechanisms whenever speaking or listening.
Overall, learning a new language has a great impact on academic performances all across. This is revealed universally as it seems to be the case for language learners from a variety of countries, with different language combinations, and from varied socio-economic backgrounds. While those who begin to learn a second language may suffer initially compared to monolingual peers, they eventually begin to show the most success across the curriculum overall.
Evidently, those who learn another language have more success in life when it comes to cognitive development, both socially and academically. Bilingual people have better memory, creativity, skills, and awareness. The neurological benefits of learning another language can start from early childhood and show effects all the way to old age.