There are many benefits to language learning, but here is a relatively newly recognized one: Learning a foreign language will make your brain bigger!
According to a recent article in The Guardian, this was one of the findings of a Swedish study that used MRIs (brain scans) to compare one group who learned foreign languages to another group who studied medicine or science. The Swedish scientists found that the brains from the group that learned foreign languages grew in size, while the other group’s brains did not. The study lasted for three months, so they are not sure about long-term effects. Is a bigger brain a better brain? Only time will tell. However, they saw the results as encouraging.
Other scientific studies are taking a look at the way we learn foreign languages. A professor from the University of Illinois in Chicago conducted a study on foreign language learning by using an artificial language as the subject. One group learned that language through rules and grammar explanations while a second group learned the language through immersion. The brain processes of the second group were found to be more like the brain processes of native speakers both at the time of the study and six months after the study when they were not in contact with the artificial language anymore.
In addition, other recent studies that used brain research found that people who speak more than language have better memories, are more mentally creative and are better able to stave off Alzheimers disease and dementia than people who only speak one language.
Simply put, the growing body of brain research making a case for the benefits of foreign language learning, and even how to best learn other languages, is at the very least making foreign language learning a no brainer.