Why learning a foreign language is good for you


Nov 13, 2014 by Smart Blog

Even if your schooldays are a distant memory, and you loathed learning French or German back then, there are plenty of good reasons for learning a foreign language as an adult.

Indeed, recent research has found that the brain-enhancing benefits of learning another tongue are not only considerable, but are as great for adults as they are for children and adolescents.


Brain Building

One of the biggest advantages to learning a new language lies in the fact that doing so improves brain function in a range of ways. It forces the brain to recognise and act upon new patterns and systems of communication. This is actually a very complex process, which gives the brain a comprehensive 'workout', and has measurable effects on several key cognitive skills.

These enhanced skills, which include improvements in problem solving, are transferable to other situations. So, if, for example, you decide to learn German, you may also find yourself getting better at putting flat-pack furniture together or working out the quickest route to work!

Several research studies suggest that students of foreign languages out-perform their peers in terms of maths, reading and vocabulary skills. One study in particular suggests that learning a foreign language enhances decision-making skills, possibly because being able to use the insights and perspectives of more than one language when thinking (thought being a language-based process), gives a better all-round view of the matter at hand.


Brain Fitness

Knowing more than one language can stave off Alzheimer's and dementia, according to several scientific studies. For adults who speak one language, the average age at which dementia symptoms first appear is 71.4. For those who speak two or more languages, it is 75.5.


Cultural Gains

Speaking a foreign language gives a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the culture in which it operates, and can give speakers more credibility, insight and acceptance when they visit or live in those cultures. In many cases it can also provide a helpful means of getting in touch with one's own cultural roots or history.

Learning a new language may also improve your command of English, because learning a language makes speakers more aware of the structure and nuances involved in grammar, vocabulary and syntax.

Many employers are keen to recruit multilingual people: languages that are particularly helpful for employment now include Portuguese (because Brazil is fast becoming a major economic force), Japanese, Russian, Cantonese, Mandarin and Arabic.


Too Difficult?

Learning any new language is certainly a challenge, but there are degrees of difficulty involved. According to the US Department of State, the easiest languages for native English speakers to learn include Afrikaans, French, Spanish, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swedish.

However, if you fancy the simplest option of all, why not try Frisian? This language, which is spoken by 500,000 people in part of The Netherlands, is the closest linguistic relative to English - in fact the two were basically the same language until they parted company at some point in the eighth century.