You may have considered learning a second language to boost your resume and broaden your job prospects, but did you know that learning a language is actually good for your mental health as well? Processing language is one of the most complex functions that your brain has to handle. So, you are actually expanding your brain’s capacity when you learn a second language – not to mention giving the old gray matter a great workout as well! Here are just some of the ways learning a language can improve your mental health:
Improves your memory
When you think about it, it shouldn’t be surprising that people who speak two languages or more should have better memories. They have to memorize double the amount of words as their monolingual counterparts, after all. Yet, learning a language doesn’t stop at the benefits of communicating in a foreign tongue. Studies have proven that learning a language also improves the memory for non-linguistic matters, like remembering patterns presented visually, or even dates and numbers. Building up the amount of foreign vocabulary you know will expand your memory, which means your brain will stay alert for longer.
Keeps your brain healthier longer
Learning a language is extremely beneficial when it comes to staving off certain diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Why is this? The answer to that is not really clear, although more than likely it is due to the increased brain capacity and alertness. People who speak at least two languages take twice the amount of time to develop symptoms of mental diseases as those who only speak one. On top of that, the average age for monolingual people to show the first signs of dementia is 71.4 years old, whereas in bilinguals it’s 75.5.
Helps you to multitask
People who are bilingual or multilingual are better at multitasking. Why is this? It could have something to do with the skills needed to switch back and forth between languages. A study performed on monolingual and bilingual participants showed that when they had to switch tasks quickly, the bilingual participants consistently outperformed the monolinguals.
Sean Hopwood of Day Translations, an online translation services provider, speaks five languages fluently and another three at intermediate level. He says: “My company has always grown in many directions, instead of just vertically. I think speaking several languages has definitely contributed to my ability to handle multiple projects at once. I always have dozens of windows open on my browser at any given time.”
You’ll be less easily distracted
It’s easy to get distracted when you’re working, with the constant temptation of social sites like Facebook, YouTube, maybe even Netflix. So, here’s another piece of good news for people who want to learn another language. It improves your concentration. Bilingual speakers have heightened ability to tune out distractions and get tasks done quicker. This means that you’ll be more productive in your personal and professional life as well.
Even better than that? Recent research has found that on top of improving memory, concentration and helping you stay healthier longer, bilinguals are more creative than monolinguals. They have a greater ability to think creatively and offer innovative solutions to problems.
So, if you haven’t put it on your agenda yet for 2017, think about learning a language today. With all the cognitive benefits it brings, not only will you have heightened job prospects and be able to communicate with people from different countries. But you’ll also exercise your brain and improve your mental health. Who doesn’t want to get their work done quicker, more creatively and with better results? And at the same time be safeguarding their future mental health?
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