There have been numerous studies pointing to the benefits of learning a new language. Yet, recent study shows that only 18% of Americans can fluently speak two or more languages.
Part of the reason is that learning a new language only becomes an interest to us once we reach adulthood, and we mistakenly think that it’s impossible to acquire a new language at a certain age. While it’s not a walk in the park, nearly anyone can learn a new language with a bit of motivation and diligence. Some people have more of an aptitude for learning languages, like children, but we shouldn’t let it discourage us from continuing to improve.
If you need more reasons to motivate yourself to learn a new language, here are 7 amazing benefits backed by science.
1. You Will Improve Your Native Languages
It’s only when we learn a new language, that we can appreciate the roots and fundamentals of our native language. This is because we grew up speaking our native language, without much thought in terms of how sentence structures worked or breaking down the accents for each syllable.
According to the Impact of the Second Language Education, studying a second language alone will significantly improve the grammar, reading, vocabulary, and speaking skills of your first language. It’s similar to playing basketball your whole life, then learning how to play volleyball, and using those skills to improve your basketball game.
2. Enhances Your Focus
In a study, published online in the journal Brain and Language, individuals who spoke more than one language were observed through an fMRI, while performing word comprehension tasks. Results showed that multilingual individuals were better at filtering out competing words than one-language speaking individuals. This ability to tune out competing words benefits in blocking out distractions to focus on the task at hand.
Luckily for us, studies have shown that even those of us with minimal knowledge of a secondary language can reap the advantages of these traits.
3. Prevents Common Brain Diseases
Hopefully none of us have to worry about this anytime soon, but aging is something that is common in all of us. When it comes to the brain, learning a new language can prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by 4.5 years. This is a far more powerful than the best drugs, which only delay the symptoms by 6–12 months.
In a study done in Massachusetts in 2007, the researchers have concluded that the “exercise in cognitive problem solving” through language learning can be directly applied to anything we want to learn. Your memory retention is also improved when learning a new language. Absorbing and retaining more information can significantly shorten your learning curve, because you can spend more time learning new information instead of re-learning something you’ve already seen before.
5. Become More Outgoing And Liked By Others
Language learning is not only about communicating in a foreign language, it’s about experiencing a new culture.
The first reason is that meeting foreign people is embedded in the core of language learning. In order to practice and improve a new language, you’ll need to work with a native speaking teacher (or a coach on Rype), use conversation exchanges, or attend language meetups. This is similar to how you need to just ride the bicycle instead of watching videos about it, its just part of the process.
The experience of speaking with conversation partners is essentially the same as meeting anyone. The skills of being communicative and sociable are directly transferable to other areas of your life. Most importantly, learning a new language helps you step into the shoes of people different to yourself and see the world from a contrasting perspective — therefore developing empathy for others.
6. Double Your Creativity
We often have to puzzle together words to form a sentence until it fits and makes sense for another person. Learning a new language improves your divergent thinking skills, training you to produce multiple solutions to problems on a consistent basis. This “out of the box” experimentation practice is why researchers have concluded that multilingual individuals are more creative than monolingual individuals.
7. Boost Your Confidence Level
When we set out to achieve something and find success, it boosts our confidence levels — no matter how small the success. Even being able to carry a 30-second conversation with a native speaker can significantly boost your confidence, because you know it’s something you wouldn’t have been able to do before.
This “yes, I can!” mentality will become your personal mantra, and can be applied to any goal you want to achieve in your life.