Why is learning a foreign language good for your brain? by Barbara Mascareno-Shaw

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Learning Spanish or another foreign language is often regarded as beneficial to the human brain. Language acquisition is an important skill babies need to master even before entering any formal learning. And many experts in neurolinguists can agree that learning another language besides the native one entails many advantages.

What is neurolinguistics?

It is the study of how the brain can process and acquire language. Two main areas in the brain collaborate to the learning of a language: the Broca and the Wernicke. The Broca area entails the “motor production of speech” and the Wernicke area functions as an “auditory speech comprehension”. And learning a second language is generally termed language acquisition, the ability to learn a new language other than the native one.

What is the scientific evidence?

Studies have shown learning acquisition of another language can improve cognitive skills, better language learning, and deters the signs of mind aging. Not only do bilingual speakers perform well on verbal and non-verbal exams, but this linguistic benefit is also shown in infrared imaging, a scientific instrumentation.

In a recent research, near-infrared spectroscopy was used to monitor the changes in bilingual baby brains. Surprisingly, studies showed bilingual babies still had the capacity to distinguish between different languages even after a year old. And they still were able to reach and accomplish the basic milestones – first word, knowledge of first name, and identification of basic words.

In fact, older bilingual speakers were able to identify grammar mistakes without knowing, often referred as a way to recognize words that are out of place or not related to the rest of the sentence. More importantly, bilingual communicators are able to transition from one activity to another without being overwhelmed. This multitasking ability is often regarded as an essential skill when reading, driving, and other tasks.

Why is this so important for bilinguals?

The capability to acquire a second language has also proven beneficial in diminishing the signs of mind aging. Studies showed bilingual brains tend to delay the signs of aging, which are related to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Many of these signs were not present in monolinguals.

The human brain is adequate to learn a foreign language, since it can constantly juggles from the native language to the second one, to make interpretations and translations. It focuses on the task at hand, to be able to switch from one to another.

A bilingual brain benefits in many ways. Improvements of cognitive and logical skills are a few of the advantages. Deterrence of signs of mind aging is a life positive skill. And many of these benefits can be life changing.

Barbara is the creator of Spanish4Kiddos Tutoring Services, an online resource to help parents and educators teach children about Spanish and its culture. She is also a tutor in Spanish, math, and science. You can learn more by visiting her site at www.spanish4kiddos.com to get free worksheets, quizzes, lesson plans, and book suggestions. Connect with her on Twitter @spanish4kiddos or visit her on Facebook at Spanish4Kiddos.

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