Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Learning Foreign Languages: Why Our Brains Need It

Learning Foreign Languages: Why Our Brains Need It

John Morton/Flickr

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Scientists from the Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Russia and the University of Helsinki found that learning foreign languages improves the brain’s elasticity and ability to process information. In their study published in Scientific Reports, they report that the more foreign languages a person learns, the more effectively his brain reacts and processes information during learning.

The study involved measuring the brain activities of 10 male and 12 female students, aged 24 on the average, with an EEG or electroencephalography. The researchers measured the brain activities while the students listened to recordings of different words in their native language and foreign language.

Whenever the words, known and unknown, are heard, the brain activity lights up. The research team found that the brains of those participants who also know foreign languages had higher activity when they heard unknown words.

This demonstrated that their brains have faster neuron network coding of information. The researchers added that the more languages an individual knows, the faster his brain processes information. Moreover, learning new languages boosts the brain’s elasticity.

The neurophysiological mechanics of language and speech acquisition remain poorly understood. Once more is known about this, the researchers believe that strategies to diagnose speech impediments after accidents would be improved. The treatments for such problems could also be developed.

Moreover, understanding the principles of creating and strengthening neuron networks could one day help us accelerate and improve the learning process.

The findings echo a previous research that showed  learning two languages from the start helps children master the rules of each language faster. In a study conducted in Singapore, scientists found that those who speak two languages learn words in each language more effectively.

This debunks the belief that learning more than one language will overburden a child’s mind or confuse them. Still, the research team suggests further research to investigate the subject deeper.