Learning a new language : Effects on your brain
There are a lot of studies on the topic, it's now a fact scientifically accepted : Learning a new language has a big impact on how our brain develops.
1- Strengthen your brain
Our brain is similar to a muscle and need also some training. This training come with plenty of mental stimulation. Learning things that we usually don't or doing usual
things in different ways lead to stimulate the brain. Putting the brain in « uncomfortable » situations allow to create new neuronal connections. This help to give you access to both hemispheres of your brain.
Researchers of the university of Lund in Sweden observed a group of student in the School of Translation of the Army. These students have to learn languages with a strict and difficult program. This was also the perfect opportunity for the researchers to see how quick the learning of a new language can affect the brain.
The same researchers chose another group of student but of medecine in the university of Umea, Sweden. The objectif here was to find a group with the same learning level difficulty, but in learning something else.
Some MRI were done to both of the groups at the beginning of the learning process then 3 months later again. The researchers found out that the structure of the brain of just the language-learning students has changed. The hippocampus region of the brain became bigger. This region manage the memory and the emotions. Three others regions of the cerebral cortex became also bigger.
This study shows how learning languages more than learning something else has advantages in strenghtening the brain.
Researchers of the university of Northwestern used The MRI to test the « co-activation » and the « inhibition ». The first one means that two languages are actives in the same time and the second refers to the capacity to choose the correct language in a situation. The study includes a group of bilingual people and another monolingual.
The results show at the end that monolingual people have to think more to give some answers. The bilingual persons have the capacity to filter the unuseful informations which leads to higher concentration abilities. In fact, multilinguals are always making kind of puzzles in their brain to move from a language to another which means that they are training their brain even without doing any specific thing.
Foxman give a definition of uncertainty avoidance as how good a person deals with a non-structured, non-finished or non-understood situation. The professors Jean-Marc Dewaele et Li Wei studies the link between learning a new language and lowering uncertainty avoidance.
First let's explain why lowering uncertainty avoidance is good for daily life and personal development. There is less stress and anxiety about unknown situations so more control and self trust. More open-minded because less afraid by what's unknown. So more curious to learn new things and meet new people.
Now that this competence is clearly advantageous let's explain the link with languages. In any conversation in a new learning language is some (a lot) of words that we don't understand. And as it's impossible to stop the conversation to look for the unknown words the person have to continue and deel with this situation. That can be difficult and some solutions that we find as answers can be unusual and different. In this way, learning a new language allow people to be generaly more optimistic and have more risk taking and enterpreneurship and innovative skills. That's one of the reasons why the university Princeton recently announced that its students have now to learn a new language regardless of their studies.
4-Prevent degenerative diseases
A study from the university of Concordia in Montréal used some RMI informations to compare a group of monolingual people with the Alzheimer disease and another group multilingual with the same desease. The results of the study show that bilingualism deals with some specific regions of the brain and that make the cortex and the grey matter bigger.
So the multilingual people can better compensate the loss of cellular tissue related to the disease because they can access to some regions of the brain related to memory better than others.
As we can see a lot of studies are done to show the unexpected benefits from learning a new language. The quantity of studies is always increasing which allows the different results to be spread. This fact is actually really positif for all the international volonteers. The recognition of the EVS is even more spread and the value of beeing able to speak many languages is always increasing. This will maybe lead the european organisations to support always more the volonteering programs and to spread it.