Everything That Happens to Your Brain When You Learn a Second Language

Did you know that learning a second language boosts your brain?. Scientific research in the last 50 years finds that people who learn another language reap many brain benefits, and we made a list of some of them below. So read on to find out everything that happens to your brain when you learn a new language!

1. Your brain expands.

According to an article in Your Training Edge, a recent study proves that learning another language makes your brain grow. The study monitored and compared the brain activity of two groups: med students and military personnel who were taking several hours of language courses each day. The results revealed that the areas of the brain involved with language learning actually expanded after a certain amount of time in the military group. Meanwhile, there was no change in the brains of the med students.

2. Language learning helps protect your brain from developing Alzheimer’s.

Scientists also found evidence that being bilingual helps protect your brain against Alzheimer’s. The above-linked article in Live Science describes how a Canadian scientist conducted a study involving two groups of Alzheimer’s patients. One group spoke only one language while the second group was bilingual. On average, the bilingual patients noticed symptoms five years later than the monolingual patients and received their Alzheimer’s diagnosis four years later. The study concluded that the patients’ bilingualism kept their brains healthier for a longer period of time.

3. The bilingual brain maintains better focus.

This Science Alert article describes a study at the University of Birmingham in the UK in which 51 out of 99 study participants spoke only English, while 48 participants spoke both Chinese and English since early childhood. Both groups completed tests that challenged their attention spans, and the results concluded that the bilingual participants had better attention spans.

4. The bilingual brain gets a healthy workout.

When you learn a second language over time the brain gets additional stimulation that boosts its overall function. It sorts out the two languages and keeps one language from interfering with another. Up through the first half of the 20th century, the above-linked article reports, researchers believed the bilingual brain of a young child would become impaired when faced with the tasks of navigating two languages. However, by the 1960s, research proved that bilingual brains of all ages become stronger. When neural pathways become damaged — either through age or illness — alternate pathways to healthy parts of the brain are constructed, and essential tasks like memory retrieval are redirected there.

5. Bilinguals have better executive functioning skills.

Finally, bilingualism strengthens the frontal lobe, that vital area of your brain governing executive function. It’s the region in charge of decision-making, controlling emotions, planning and organizing, using discretion, remembering details, and learning from experience. On average, these skills are stronger in bilinguals.

Learn Spanish to keep your brain healthier! CRLA, Costa Rica’s leading Spanish language institute, offers a customized immersion language experience to a diverse body of students of every age, from all over the world. With over 25 years experience, CRLA has its own methodology, taught by licensed instructors who graduated from Costa Rica’s top universities. In addition, CRLA offers:

  • An established homestay program with experienced, vetted host families
  • Flexible course schedules
  • Excursions and outings
  • Culture courses, volunteer opportunities, and service learning programs
  • Assistance with arrangements for independent travel

For more information on taking Spanish at CRLA, please contact us.