The Benefits of Learning a Second Language

Jan 16 2018

Here’s a common situation in the U.S.: as a high school student, you have to take a foreign language to meet your school’s requirements for graduation. You decide to take Spanish for the minimum two years, you have some fun, and then you move on to other things.

But why should you stick with it and commit to mastering another language?

It turns out that there are many benefits to learning and mastering another language.

Bilingual people tend to perform better than their monolingual peers in something called executive function.1 Executive function includes problem-solving ability, self-control, and mental flexibility. In other words, learning another language can help you in many parts of your life—it helps you do better in school, see things from other people’s perspectives, and more.

People who learn another language exercise a region of the brain called the hippocampus. This part of the brain is responsible for learning new things and visualizing where objects are in relationship to other objects. Learning a second language also promotes growth in the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for general cognition.2 Learning another language literally helps your brain grow and stay healthy.

Mastering another language also means that you can travel to other places and make friendships with people across cultures. The only way to really get to know another culture is to immerse yourself in the language. Many people in big cities around the world do speak English. When you leave the city, however, you will find that most people do not. By personally getting to know people from another culture, you can learn to see the world from another perspective. You may even realize that people across the world have more in common than you might think.

Here are some free resources you can use to learn another language, or supplement your current language learning.:

Duolingo – a gamified language learning program.
Memrise – language learning based on user-generated flashcards.
Coursera – online courses from universities across the US.

1 http://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0278-7393.34.4.859
2 https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121008082953.htm

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