It has always been known that learning a new language has its benefits. Being bilingual or multilingual can increase your job opportunities, turn you into a more worldly type of person, and give you great personal satisfaction. As if all of that was not enough, now scientists are telling us that you can increase the size of your brain by learning a new language!
Researchers from Lund University in Sweden have done recent studies on the connection of brain growth and language acquisition. The study’s results suggest that by learning and becoming a fluent speaker of a new language, the cerebral cortex in the brain becomes larger in size. This is fantastic news since the cerebral cortex is the most important part of our brains and how they function. Our ability to reason, to visually process things, to plan and to remember things are all directly connected to the functioning of the cerebral cortex. Having it increase in size can mean a whole new world for many people. For instance, for someone who has poor memory retention, having the cerebral cortex get larger could really boost their memory. And even though this is not yet a certain fact, it is assumed by many researchers that having the cerebral cortex enlarged can help students grow by leaps and bounds when it comes to academics. Another positive is that learning a new language also affects the size and growth of the hippocampus. This part of the brain is also responsible for memory retention and formation, and is usually the first part of the brain to have issues when people enter their golden years.
The amazing study included two groups of people who were a part of the Interpreters Academy for the Swedish Armed Forces. The first group who had never had any prior knowledge of any language but their own, but who had just spent a little over a year learning languages such as Russian and Arabic, were in the first group. The second group consisted of people who were still continuing their education, but had not learned another language. Before the study began, each group of participants underwent an MRI. This imaging test was also performed on both groups once the study was completed. The group who had never learned a second language was the control group. The results were that the brains of the control group did not change. However, those from the first group had significant changes in the growth of their brains from start to finish.
Even though this is not solid proof that everyone who learns a second language will have the same results, more research is being done. Plus, even if there is only a chance your brain may be larger, it is a good bet to take!