The Life and Health Benefits of a Second Language
Ever get tired in middle or high school with learning another language? Well it turns out that there’s a lot more benefits to learning a second language than just acing an exam.
Of course we all know it’s cool to be able to know what someone is saying and being able to converse with them. But the crazy thing is, there’s a lot more to it than that. In fact, there are health benefits that could aid you much later down the road in life. And it’s all because you pushed yourself to reach beyond your first language.
YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
There are quite a few benefits to learning a second language, and your mental health benefits immensely from it. Throughout the time you learn the second or third language and you start to use it through speaking, writing, listening, and reading, you exercise your brain. This mental exercise can delay or perhaps prevent certain aging diseases such as Alzheimers and dementia. This can be prevented for up to five years just from learning and using a second language.
You’ll also be able to recall names, facts, directions, and figures better than most people because of the way you challenge it to recall and apply constant new knowledge of language. So you not only benefit later, but now as well.
We can’t always predict what will happen with our health in the future, but thankfully there are ways we can push off the side effects of aging. Whether it’s taking care our bodies and working out, or taking care of our brains and learning a second language.
So many times we’re faced with hectic situations in our life and the only response it seems is an emotional one. A work problem arises and we have to figure it out, or a fight happens at home and we have to sort through what should be done.
But when a bilingual person is confronted with a problem in a second language, they’re able to keep their calm and respond more rationally. They have the ability to respond to stressful situations without having much if any of an emotional bias.
And when we learn this, we can apply it to our lives as a whole. Whether we’re speaking in our native language or another, we can decide to respond to things more rationally and think through the situation more carefully.
Learning a second language or multiple languages will give you a higher density of the gray matter in your brain that contains a lot of your neurons and synapses. If you don’t remember much from your high school science classes (who does?), those are two key factors in sending and receiving nerve messages. So whether it’s pain or pleasure, being bilingual can benefit your brain and how its nerve signals function.
Also, have you ever heard of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex? I don’t remember being taught about it either, but this part of your brain benefits hugely from learning a second language. It helps you with your executive functions. So whether it’s multi-tasking, problem solving, or focusing while filtering out irrelevant information, this is a great part of the brain to strengthen over the years.
So you remember how you had to take Spanish in high school and it seemed like such a drag? Well apparently learning a second language can help you with a lot more than doing good in Spanish class. It’s been shown in standardized exams that bilingual students scored higher with math, vocabulary, and reading comprehension.
This can be a great reason to start your children young when learning another language or pursuing one yourself at this time. You may not be in high school anymore, but if you’re in college or you want to be more attuned to these abilities, then learning a second language might not be a bad idea.
BETTER JOB PROSPECTS
This may be a given, but it really is something to think about. Many times, jobs offered to people who are bilingual are higher paying and with better benefits because of their expertise. They don’t just add value to their workplace because of the certain set of skills they have. They also add value by being able to communicate and bridge the gap between cultures and customs.
Bilingual and Multilingual people are also both more likely to be hired when applying for a position. With our communities being so diverse and people speaking more than one language around us, knowing more than just your native tongue is indispensable.
TRAVELING AND COMMUNICATING
How cool would it be if you could travel to a country and you wouldn’t have to struggle to understand someone speaking to you? You wouldn’t have to flip through a language dictionary, you’d just know what they were saying or could closely translate.
Or even if you don’t travel, it’d still be amazing just to go to an ethnic restaurant and be able to speak to them in their native tongue. You’d impress them as well as help them better understand what you want.
A BETTER WORLDVIEW
When you learn a language, you don’t just learn the grammar and the vocab. You learn all of the cultural ties that come with the origins of certain words and sayings and phrases. It opens your mind up to how other people from different countries think and process life events and the world around them.
It’s also pretty hard not to learn quite a few things about certain cultures when becoming bilingual. It will give you perspective on why people think the way they do and open up your mind to new viewpoints and sympathies.
STRESS REDUCING MULTI-TASKING
The Pennsylvania State University did a study on people who were bilingual and their ability to multi task. Apparently, because they are able to go between languages often, which requires more of a mental discipline and control, they are able to multi-task better, which reduces stress in their life.
CONFIDENCE IN DECISION MAKING
People who learn another language are able to enhance their confidence when making decisions. The reason for this being is because bilinguals practice hard at learning another language and grow in confidence when it comes to speaking. Speaking is one of the hardest parts of learning a new language, it requires much of your confidence and courage. So when someone masters this, they’re more confident in what they will say and how things will come out. In the same way, it applies to everyday decision making and how confident your are in the choice you are making for yourself or for a group.
Learning that second language can help you with this if you are as ADD as I am. With how fast paced our culture is getting what with the internet and all of the entertainment we receive, developing our listening skills can’t hurt. Because bilinguals have trained themselves to listen carefully when hearing another language, they’ve trained their brains to be more attentive when listening.
IT GETS EASIER
I honestly used to think that it would be harder to know more than two languages. So if I learned Spanish but also wanted to learn Japanese, I believed it would be hard to try and keep them both of them from slipping from memory. Japanese would just be a burden to learn.
But it turns out learning more languages after the second gets a whole lot easier. Our brain is used to challenging itself and taking in a lot of information that when you finally get around to learning a third language, it may still be a bit of a challenge, but will definitely be easier and take less time to learn.
Learning a second language always seemed forced upon me. Yeah it sounded cool to be able to be bilingual and switch between the languages, but when I felt obligated in school to learn, there was no passion behind it. I’d just got to Google Translate and get an A on all of my papers.
But now that I’ve started to learn Japanese, it feels like I finally had a key to a door that had been locked my entire life. I’ve been able to read and write their alphabets and sound them out correctly. I don’t always know what they’re saying, but I’m finally able to make sense of the letters that confused me.
I really believe learning a second language is like a key. You use it to open up a door to a whole new world that you would have never experienced. It may sound cheesy, but it does work that way. And whether you have the same analogy or feeling as me or not, you’ll feel a certain sense of confidence when you begin to learn and grasp the structure and meaning of a language.