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How Learning a Second Language Can Benefit Your Brain Health

Learning a new language might only seem useful to you if you’re planning on visiting another country, but there are countless benefits to this challenging activity. It can certainly be frustrating, especially in the early phases, but you might be surprised at how much fun you wind up having with learning a second language. Your brain is like a muscle, and you can make it stronger by giving it challenging tasks to “work out” with. There are many natural, everyday things you can do to keep your mind sharp, but learning a new language engages the brain in several powerful ways and may even help stave off cognitive decline.

Decades of research indicate that bilinguals (people who are fluent in more than one language) tend to outperform monolinguals (people fluent in only one language) in various cognitive areas. These areas include memory, attention, concentration, creativity, and mental flexibility. As anyone who’s ever tried in earnest to learn a second language knows, these areas can be stretched to their limits during that difficult process. And if the brain benefits from exercise, as research and anecdotal evidence strongly suggest, it should be no surprise that language learning is great for the brain.

Becoming fluent in a new language requires the mind to operate in unique ways. A good language-learning program will expand the learner’s memory, almost as a side-effect, as they expand their vocabulary and understanding through practice. The process will exercise your ability to sustain attention and concentration on things that don’t immediately make sense to you, all while giving you an extremely valuable skill.

Perhaps most valuable to our readers is the connection between learning a second language and the delayed onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Brain researchers are still investigating this connection, but a recent study by scientists at York University in Toronto yielded promising results. Researchers found that bilingual Alzheimer’s patients experienced the onset of their disease up to five years later than their monolingual counterparts. Again, more research is needed on the nature of this correlation, but it appears that learning a new language might keep the brain healthy for longer in encouragingly concrete ways.

Language education is an area of research that’s always evolving and advancing, and there are many great cutting-edge language courses and programs out there. Learning a new language without guidance can undoubtedly produce positive results, but we recommend using a class, tutor, or structured modern language-learning program (some of which are free). This will help you learn the language most efficiently, effectively, and painlessly, as well as engage your brain in optimally constructive ways. DuoLingo, Babbel, and Rosetta Stone are three of the most popular, cutting-edge, and (perhaps most importantly) fun programs available online today.

As we get older, it’s important to approach our physical health, brain health, and lifestyle choices in the most beneficial and appropriate ways we can. At Corso Atlanta, our residents have access to many health, wellness, and social activities specifically geared toward seniors. If you’re interested in learning more about assisted living, independent living, memory care, or any of the many programs, amenities, and activities we offer, please contact Corso Atlanta for more information. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook for updates and to check back often for new blogs.