Want a Bigger Brain? Learn a new language.
June 1, 2016
Do you know what happens to your brain when you learn a new language? Language processing is how your brain's uses the cerebral cortex to communicate ideas and feelings as well as how you process and understand words. When you learn an additional language, functions occur in specific areas of your brain that cause those areas to increase in size. As research studies continue to unlock some of the brain's secrets, scientists have concluded that a bilingual brain in someone who has been fluent in at least two languages from early childhood, enhances the person's ability to concentrate and may delay the onset of dementia by up to four years.
For many years, scientists debated the issue of whether the processing of multiple languages occurred in differing areas of the brain. With more recent advances in brain imaging, they discovered that bilingual language processing occurs in much of the same brain tissue as monolingual communications. What does happen when you are using one language in conjunction with a second language is a significant increase in activity of your dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex. This increase in brain activity is believed to benefit both your attention and control. In fact, it is so predictable that it is accepted as an individual's neurological signature for bilingualism.
The expressive element of communication primarily occurs in Broca's area located in the inferior frontal gyrus. This area of your brain sends signals to the larynx, tongue and mouth. The receptive element of communication primarily occurs in Wernicke's area located in the posterior superior temporal gyrus. This area of the brain deals with both the comprehension of language and your ability to communicate ideas vocally or verbally. More recently, researchers discovered that bilingual adults have denser gray matter in the parts of their brain where most language processing occurs.
Since it is believed that mastering a second language is much easier and faster for children, some adults have concluded they are too old to learn a second language, which is not true. On the other hand, studies have shown that when a child learns a second language both languages are processed in the same area of the brain. Conversely, when an adult becomes bilingual, the languages are processed in a separate but nearby area of their brain. Nonetheless, learning a foreign language not only provides health benefits, it will help you attain a better understanding of your own language and culture by studying another's.