Learning a new language have many benefits that are commonly recognized. It brings advantage when getting a job or expressing yourself in a foreign country. But scientific studies have revealed other unknown and surprising benefits of acquiring a new language. The overall conclusion inferred from all these studies is the fact that learning a foreign language unlocks secret mental and perceptional traits.
Let’s take a look at six benefits of learning a foreign language, which are supported by solid scientific evidence.
According to a research conducted by Dr. Boaz Keysar, thinking in a foreign language has profound benefits in decision making. It is due to the fact that speaking in foreign language allows oneself to be free of emotional inclinations which in turn provides ability to make more rational choices. Thinking only in native language compromises deliberate decision making. A multilingual person might then has the ability to act rationally. If you come across with difficulty in making a decision think that dilemma in a foreign language. This will prevent you from acting impulsively.
A research done at Northwestern University in 2012 revealed that multilingual persons perform better at focusing at details and filtering unnecessary ones. Accordingly, monolingual persons cannot block out irrelevant details as multilinguals do. This comes from “mental juggling” which refers to exercising like in a mental gymnasium when speaking to more than one language. In other words, mental juggling allows multilinguals to filter out unimportant details while focusing on relevant auditory input.
A study performed in Sweden revealed that brain size changes when a person acquired a new language. The Swedish scientists compared the brains of learners through MRI scans before and after a language training course. The brain size of language learners were also contrasted with those of medical students. The study discovered that the hippocampus, the zone in the brain that is responsible for learning and direction finding as well as the other zones in the cerebral cortex related to learning language had changes in shape and grew in size.
A research performed by Panos Athanasopoulosa, a researcher at Newcastle University, found out that the multilingual persons perceive more diverse stimuli than other people. For instance, there might be words refer to different shades of a color in a foreign language while it might not be the case in the native language. In that instance, bilingual person can differentiate different tones of color and hence perceive more stimuli than a monolingual person. Although it does not alter sensory perception, it stimulates mental perception in a more enriched way. It would not be wrong to say that learning a foreign language offers ability to perceive the world differently.
Speaking only native language makes a person unaware of mechanics of that language such as grammar, sentence structures, etc. Awareness of mechanisms of native language grows once those of a foreign language are discovered. This phenomenon is defined as metalinguistic awareness. Studies conducted at the University of South Australia found supporting evidence to that claim. Accordingly, acquiring skills to conform to mechanisms of a foreign language allows a person to handle the sophisticated aspects of native language easily.
Acquisition of new language opens doors of a new culture and thus values, perspectives and thoughts of that culture. So learning a new language does not refer only to defining objects or actions with new words. It is also an exposure to the other ways of seeing and understanding the world. In this way, a multilingual person is more open to imagining the world in terms of other perspectives. Likewise, monolingual people are devoid of traits to recognize other diverse perspectives.