Saturday, May 15, 2010

Scientists: Speaking multiple languages gives your brain a turbo boost

Hey, you, polyglot: has anyone told you how awesome you are today? No? Then David Marsh, specialized planner at the Continuing Professional Development Centre of Jyväskylä University in Finland, can take care of that for you:
[T]he ability to use more than one language brings an individual a considerable advantage…

[E]specially the research conducted within neurosciences offers an increasing amount of strong evidence of versatile knowledge of languages being beneficial for the usage of an individual's brain…

[The] six main areas where multilingualism and hence the mastery of complex processes of thought seem to put people in advantage … include learning in general, complex thinking and creativity, mental flexibility, interpersonal and communication skills, and even a possible delay in the onset of age-related mental diminishment later in life…

[T]he multilingual shows superior performance in handling complex and demanding problem-solving tasks when compared to monolinguals…

[I]t is likely that multilingualism produces a special advantage in utilizing a person's brain capacity as creatively as possible.
David also has some love for you aspiring polyglots as well:
[C]hanges in the brain's electrical activity may occur already in the beginnings of learning a new language.
In other words, you're starting to get all those benefits above right at the outset of learning a new language.

David then goes on to echo those of us in the language-learning blogosphere about changes that need to happen in language learning in schools:
There is also room for improvement in language education, since children should be encouraged to engage in higher order thinking about meaningful content that fires up the brain.

Learning a language strictly as a separate subject in the curriculum does not work as effectively for a broad range of young people as compared to embedding second language learning into other subjects. Thinking about numbers, for example, does figure naturally in a lot of school learning as well as in real life outside the school, which supports learning and knowing mathematics. The same may not always be true of foreign languages…
Meaningful content? Yeah, I hear that.


  1. Ok, I guess I should get back to my ideas on learning mandarin, not after I'm really good at Deutsch, but KNOW!, but wait, would that deviate me from becoming an expert in my professional area. That's where the dilemma of time and goals set it. I should probably get back to study and stop blogging... for know.

  2. I'm always torn between moving onto new languages and bolstering the ones I've got. So far the bolstering argument has been more persuasive, but Korean is getting more and more tempting…

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