Speaking two languages boosts brain power

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Japan
Besides boosting your intelligence, learning a second language makes traveling to foreign countries twice as exciting!

Spoken language is a complex system that follows several strict rules, yet we learn the majority of them by the time we are toddlers. There is evidence that suggests learning a second language as adults is much more difficult, but according to new research, it’s totally worth it! People who are bilingual – able to speak two languages – are apparently more intelligent, focus better, and have sharper memories.

Researchers gathered several hundred volunteers in 1947 when they were just 11 years old, determined who was bilingual, and tested their intelligence levels. They then retested that same group of participants from 2008-2010, when they were about 70 years old. According to the results, the participants who learned a second language either in childhood or adulthood had better focus, attention, vocabulary, reading comprehension, and other important brain functions.

What is the cause of this? Well, it turns out that learning a second language activates the same parts of the brain associated with reasoning, planning, and organization. The best part is that the volunteers didn’t have to be completely fluent in the second language either; as long as they knew enough vocabulary words and basic grammar to communicate, they reaped the benefits of knowing a second tongue.

So, even though it’s harder to learn a second language the older we get, it’s never too late to try. You’ll thank yourself later in life when you’re as old as a prune but as sharp as a tack!

Featured image courtesy of  woodleywonderworks on Flickr. Image of Tokyo courtesy of Kevin Poh on Flickr.