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Benefits of Learning a New Language

Benefits of Learning a New Language

We all know a few words in a foreign language -- and more than 43% of Americans ages 18 to 29 can have a conversation in at least two languages -- but what about the millions of North Americans who speak only one? Good news! Learning a new language actually adds grey matter. No matter what your calendar age, you can harness the power of language to develop and expand your brain -- and that makes your RealAge much younger.

Your brain doesn't have to shrink with age. Adults are actually better at learning new languages than kids -- if you can put aside linguistic habits (the brain gets trained to ignore sounds it doesn't need for comprehension) and embrace the nonsensical, which is how kids learn. Kids first associate sounds with objects, then recognize sounds and words as labels, and then link words with meaning.

To learn a new language, whether in class or with audio tapes, remember these tips:

  • Don't stress. If you get anxious about learning new phrases, they'll never stick. Meditate for 5 minutes before you start a lesson.
  • Practice listening -- and hearing. Tune in to TV channels with the language you are learning. Don't worry about understanding. Just let it wash over you. Understanding comes later.
  • Stay in top shape. Speech is mental and physical. Staying at a healthy weight and keeping blood pumping reduces body-wide inflammation and feeds your grey and white matter the oxygen and nutrients you need to stay sharp.

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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