The United States is a melting pot, with people moving here from all over the world. Meeting people from other continents presents an opportunity for you to learn new languages. Many parents start teaching their kids other languages at a young age for educational purposes. But did you know it has health benefits? These six reasons show how being multilingual helps your brain.
1. Reducing The Risk Of Dementia
Dementia affects millions of Americans annually. Those with dementia have trouble remembering details and making small and large decisions. Most people with dementia are older. However, in some cases, it affects younger people. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the number of people with dementia will nearly triple by 2060. One small way you can prevent dementia is with multilingualism.
Knowing three or more languages is an excellent exercise for your brain. A recent study from the University of Waterloo found a connection between multilingualism and a lower risk for dementia. The study examined nuns aged 75 years and older.
The researchers examined the women for dementia likelihood and noted how many languages they spoke. The study found that women speaking four or more languages were significantly less likely to have dementia than monolingual women.
2. Lowering The Risk Of Alzheimer’s
Many people, especially older adults, have dementia. But it’s essential to remember that dementia is a generic term. The umbrella contains different diseases like vascular dementia and Lewy body dementia. The one you may recognize the most is Alzheimer’s disease. This form of dementia affects an estimated 6.5 million Americans. Though, multilingualism does provide hope by lowering the risk.
The University of Toronto’s departments of neuroscience and physiology studied how multilingualism affects neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s. The study used empirical data from numerous databases to find the effects of multilingualism on Alzheimer’s manifestation.
The researchers concluded that multilingualism prevents brain deterioration and strengthens cognitive reserve. The study also finds multilingualism is even better than bilingualism at preventing Alzheimer’s manifestation.
3. Reducing Stress And Anxiety
Each day, you likely find something that affects your stress levels. It could be from work, school or another part of your life. If you’re in school, specifically college, you know how it feels trying to graduate. You need to obtain a certain number of credit hours, but getting there costs time and money. Some students use their multilingualism to earn college credit and test out of classes. Thus, they save money and face less stress from fewer classes.
Multilingualism also has positive effects on those who are in foreign language studies. Learning a new language can be stressful, with students facing positive and negative emotions. The European Journal of Applied Linguistics study examined the relationship between enjoyment and anxiety in learning languages. The results found a statistically significant correlation between multilingualism with more joy and less stress, showing the benefits of learning multiple languages.
4. Promoting Creativity
Creativity is at the heart of what people do daily. We need creativity because it drives our passions and finds better ways to do things. It takes creativity to develop solutions at work, find a cure for a disease and solve other facets of your life. Multilingualism is an excellent way to promote creativity and get your brain juices flowing. Experts from the University of Geneva in Switzerland examined the association between multilingualism and creativity.
They looked at multilingualism and other factors like traveling experiences and living abroad. Then they studied creative potential, interests and various activities. Ultimately, the researchers found a positive correlation between creativity and multilingualism. They say the best predictors of ideation are multilingualism and deep immersion in foreign cultures.
5. Thinking Critically
Critical thinking is integral to our lives from elementary school to old age. It allows us to make better decisions and opens the door to more creativity. In many industries, critical thinking is essential for everyday tasks and finding solutions to problems. When you think critically, you open yourself to new perspectives and become more well-rounded. Multilingualism is one way to expand your brain and start thinking more critically.
A book by Michael Singh and Si Yi Lu questions why academic English is the only language in the internationalization of post-secondary education. The authors say that academics should expand students’ capabilities by taking advantage of their multilingual abilities. By doing so, students can think more critically and find innovative solutions in their research. Their book, “Postmonolingual Critical Thinking,” challenges monolingual strategies for training graduates.
6. Recovering From Strokes
In the US, strokes are one of the leading causes of death. Nearly 800,000 people annually have a stroke, with about 160,000 passing away. Those who survive may end up with paralysis and other impairments. They may have difficulty with mathematical computations in their brain or seeing from one or both of their eyes. Some people deal with ischemic strokes, occurring when you have a blood clot that blocks an artery on the path to your brain.
Researchers from The Egyptian Journal of Neurology, Psychiatry and Neurosurgery studied multilingualism and its positive effects on stroke recovery. They examined a trilingual woman who knew French, English and Arabic. The subject unknowingly code-switched with each language, lending to her ability to conquer language problems after her stroke. The researchers concluded that cognitive reserve and multilingualism may positively relate to recovering from post-stroke aphasia.
Multilingualism Helps The Brain
Learning a new language is like opening up new worlds. When you learn Spanish, Japanese, Swahili and more, you better understand millions of other people and their cultures. Learning multiple languages also helps your brain. These six health benefits show why you should encourage language learning with yourself, your children and your friends.