How Learning Languages Prevents Us From Severe Brain Illnesses

Learning a foreign language can boost your business, but do you know it can give a big boost to your brain as well? Bilinguals and multilinguals are more efficient at developing cognitive abilities than individuals who only speak their mother tongue, but that’s not all there is.

On the contrary, it turns out that learning languages might as well help you prevent some serious brain illnesses. This is primarily related to dementia, a mental illness that affects a lot of senior citizens all over the globe. In this post, we will show you the following:

There’s a long way ahead of us, so let’s dive straight into the subject.

Dementia: Definition and Basic Facts

Before we start explaining how learning foreign languages might help you to prevent or postpone serious cognitive difficulties, we need to say a word or two about dementia as it is the most common brain condition people are dealing with.

By definition, dementia is an overall term for diseases and conditions characterized by a decline in memory, language, problem-solving, and other thinking skills that affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. The most frequent cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s, accounting for up to 80% of all cases. Numerous studies reveal the sheer magnitude of the problem:

  • Around 50 millionpeople have dementia, with nearly 10 million new cases every year.
  • The number is projected to reach 152 millionby 2050.
  • The global cost of dementia goes well above $1 trilliona year.

The figures are staggering, which is why it’s important to bear in mind the early signs of dementia. Jake Gardner, a blogger at essay writing services, explains a few common symptoms: “Dementia interferes with short-term memory, increases confusion, causes behavioral changes, and reduces concentration.”

Now, the main question is: How language learning contributes to the fight against brain conditions? There is no easy way to answer this question, so let’s move on to the next chapter.

The Impacts of Language Studies on Dementia

Dementia can have a lot of causes, so we cannot claim that learning a foreign language helps prevent it in 100% of the cases. However, many studies prove that language studies may have a significant impact on brain-related conditions from a long-term perspective.

According to the 2015 study, the neural networks involved in first language processing seem to be fundamentally the same for monolinguals and bilinguals, but the latter group faces higher processing demands that lead to an increase in brain activity: “Furthermore, a boost in executive control abilities results from coping with this increase in processing demands, which starts in infancy and continues throughout the life span, possibly enhancing cognitive reserve in the elderly.”

According to the academized reviews from Dissertation Today, this basically means that bilinguals and multilinguals develop a greater mental capacity that lasts much longer.

Other studies prove the same point. Namely, researchers also notice a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in bilinguals than in monolinguals, or at least a later onset of Alzheimer’s for bilinguals. What does it mean?

Generally speaking, people who speak more than one language usually notice the first signs of dementia nearly five years later than individuals who speak a mother tongue only. There are exceptions to every rule, but this is the overall conclusion that applies to the vast majority of cases.

Another group of researchers focuses on the development of dementia in the elderly. Here’s what they say about it: “Results suggest that stimulating activity, either mentally or socially oriented, may protect against dementia, indicating that both social interaction and intellectual stimulation may be relevant to preserving mental functioning in the elderly.”

Although they are not talking about language learning in particular, it is clear that this type of cognitive stimulation is one of the activities that can slow down or even halt brain deterioration in the long run.

Additional Effects of Language Learning on Cognitive Functions

With everything we’ve stated so far, it is clear that learning a foreign language represents a genuine cognitive booster with tons of health-related effects. However, we should also mention other impacts of language learning on the human brain because it also contributes to the prevention of serious cognitive dysfunctions. Here are some of the most important benefits:

  • It’s a mental exercise. Language learning improves your brain power as you have to cope with the brand new system packed with unknown rules, vocabulary, and structures.
  • It improves the first language. The only way to begin learning a foreign language is by comparing it with your mother tongue. This helps you not only to learn the second language but also to master the first one.
  • It improves your memory. A common proverb among language learners is “use it or lose it.” Of course, they are talking about the brain and its ability to flourish or deteriorate based on how much time you spend training it.
  • It enables multitasking. If you speak two or more languages, you are almost certainly better at multitasking than your monolingual peers. How come? It turns out that bilingualism forces the brain to switch between tasks and functions, which gradually turns you into a multitasking specialist.
  • It sharpens the mind. Various reports claim that bilinguals successfully identify false information and also analyze their surroundings more accurately.
  • It slows down aging. According to the report, normally aging bilinguals have better cognitive functioningthan normally aging monolinguals, this performing better than monolingual older adults on executive control tasks.

The Bottom Line

Millions of people from all over the world are facing serious mental conditions because there are no cures for such illnesses. Although nearly impossible to treat, brain illnesses like dementia can be prevented or at least postponed through language learning.

In this article, we analyzed how learning languages can help you prevent a severe brain condition. If you haven’t thought about studying a foreign language so far, let this be your reason to take action and cope with a second language – it might improve the quality of your life in the long run!