There are of course several reasons for the importance of learning a second language and one of the benefits of learning a foreign language that may not have been considered is the impact it has on ones brainpower.
It is a fact that learning a second language improves brainpower from early childhood and later years.
Considerable research has been done on this topic and continues to be done with findings carried out recently confirming what was found a while ago namely improvements in the structure of the brain’s white matter which is attributable to the learning of a second language.
What the researchers did was to take brain scans from 20 people aged around 30 or so who were living in UK and had been doing so for at least a year. All of them commenced learning English as a second language around the age of 10.
The images of these people were compared with 20 people of a similar age who only spoke English.
The findings of the research showed that speaking/studying more than one language everyday acts as very strong stimulation of specific brain structures related to language and helps to keep the brain sharp as we get older.
It is recognised that more research is required to determine when the positive brain changes commence taking effect.
A further research exercise by academics at the University of Edinburgh which was carried out on a group of over 800 bilingual people born in 1936 found that there was a pattern of slower mental deterioration having been given an intelligence test in 1947 and then tested again in their early 70’s.
The strongest effect of being able to speak more than one language was that this had an impact on general intelligence and reading tests.
Research carried out by others also seemed to indicate that speaking more than one language prevented dementia or delayed the onset of dementia.
All this is just another benefit of learning a second language whether one has to or not for business reasons or for studying in English or one has the wish to learn a second language so that one can enjoy ones travels more when visiting countries where English is spoken.
On a personal front I actually speak French and German in addition to English, not fluently I hasten to add, but well enough to be able to have a conversation with native speakers of the respective languages which I always enjoy.
I am actually in my 70’s and am pleased to say that I am fit but also I do genuinely feel that my brain power is still functioning albeit on only 4 cylinders out of 6:)
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I welcome any comment you may have about this post or indeed sharing your experience in learning English.