Looking for the best brain-training available? Learn a new language. It will change you (and your brain) for the better.
When we talk about getting older, fitness experts agree that a sedentary, inactive lifestyle can often accelerate the aging process. Exercise equals a healthier body. Period.
The same holds true for our brain. If we fail to exercise it, we can’t expect it to stay healthier longer.
There’s no better way to give your brain a full dose of strength training, resistance work, cardio, and yoga all at the same time than learning a new language. Just as exercise strengthens, stabilizes, and grows muscle, the workout required for language learning does the same for the brain.
Recent studies report that learning a new language develops a healthier brain by altering its physical aspects.
The Science of Brain Health
The increasing frequency of dementia has spurred researchers and scientists to study every aspect of brain function in recent years. Here are some of the anatomical changes that occur when learning a new language.
The Hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of the brain associated with anything that has to do with memory — forming or creating memories, storing events as memories, and retrieving them. A Swedish study published in NeuroImage found the hippocampus increases in volume as a person learns a second language.
Neural Pathways. The Journal of Neuroscience published a study offering strong evidence that the neural pathways between different parts of the brain increased in those learning or speaking a second language. The result: The brains of bilingual seniors had brain activity like that of younger adults.
Connectivity. Research from Penn State studied English speakers learning Chinese. MRIs revealed that a person learning a second language showed overall better connectivity between various regions in the brain. Connectivity has a direct correlation to brain health: Highly connected brains are more effective when it comes to the flow and integration of information which complements the ability to complete cognitive tasks.
The long-term impact learning a second language has on brain health is not only encouraging but comes with even better news — early research suggests it’s possible that speaking a second language postpones the development of dementia.
That’s good news in any language!
¡Buena suerte! Viel Glück. Ganbatte. In bocca al lupo. Bonne chance. Hza saeidaan. Haeng-un-eul bibnida. Lycka till.
There’s an App for That!
Based on user and tech reviews we compiled a list of the best of the best apps for learning a new language. Here are our top picks:
Duolingo: Top-rated by multiple review sites, this free app is very mobile-user friendly. The app uses visual (text and pictures) and auditory cues to help you learn. More than 30 languages are available.
Memrise: Playful memes, quizzes, and videos from native speakers are just a few reasons this highly rated free app is so popular. The app also offers a crowdsourced feature to learn the culture, history, and geography of your chosen language.
busuu: This app offers learning for all levels from beginner to upper intermediate, and even a “travel-learner” option. Learn important vocabulary and phrases then complete quizzes to advance to the next lesson. The one downside: there are only 12 languages to choose from.