You might have heard this saying from your teachers
“Your brain is a muscle, you need to train it to be strong.”
And though the brain is of course not a muscle like your biceps a new study shows that intensive language learning makes the brain grow, similar to going to the gym and working out on a daily basis.
The study was done with students at the Swedish Military Interpreter Academy which trains recruits to learn foreign languages in a very short time. And we are talking rather complicated languages like Arabic or Russian. I think, almost everybody agrees that learning how to communicate in such languages is a challenge already in itself. Now, imagine to speak Arabic or Russian within a year!
This is what these guys do, and of course it leaves scientists with the unique opportunity of what happens in the human brain when being challenged in such a way. So, is it possible to speak a new language fluently in just over a year?
Well, if you show absolute dedication it is! But, of course you have to study from morning to evening, every day of the week. Now, what is the effect on the brain?
Compared with a control group of non-language learners, the language learners’ brains showed growth in areas related to learning new material. The brain structures of the other students remained unchanged.
The scientists acknowledged surprise that even the degree the different parts of the brain grew were dependent on how hard students studied and how much effort they made to achieve a particular result. This essentially mean if you generally find it easy to study languages your hippocampus and cerebral cortex related to language learning might show growth whereas somebody faced with the same learning challenge who finds it more difficult and thus has to put more effort into achieving the same goal than you might show growth in the motor region of the cerebral cortex.
We have already reported on how constant language learning can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and how it boosts memory, attention and the ability to multitask.
Although more research has to be carried out, one thing seems to be certain: learning foreign languages can only help keep our brains fit and healthy longer. You cannot break anything! So, don’t be afraid of your age or how big of a challenge your goal of learning a new language might look at the beginning, you will do your brain something really good.
via Science Daily