Mind Over Matter: Scientists Say Anyone Can Learn a Foreign Language
Mastering a new language is tough and requires a lot of commitment. However, many times people back away from picking up a new language because they are afraid of failure or believe that their brains aren’t equipped for that type of learning. Never mind that there are tons of great benefits to language learning, if your brain can’t handle it, it just can’t…right? Well, if science has any say in it, you’re completely wrong! So read on to discover the hidden power of your brain and what you can do to channel it:
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Your Brain’s Physical Power
Many times age is what stops people from embarking on a language learning journey. We tend to assume that childhood is the prime time for brain growth and that our brain can no longer pack on power once we are past the young adult stage. Although scientists do agree that brain plasticity can decrease with age, they also know that there are ways to help your brain keep growing long into adulthood.
Learning a foreign language has been proven to be one of the most direct ways of exercising your brain. The even better news is that this brain boost can be just as effective when you’re an adult! A study carried out by Swedish scientists proved not only that learning a language can be extremely beneficial for adults, but that it can also have a physical effect on your brain. In the study, two different groups were given separate tasks to complete. One was required to study foreign languages while the second focused on other subjects. The results showed that the language students experienced actual physical brain growth while the brains of the latter group remained the same!
There you have it: learning a new language can have tangible, physical effects on your brain, even if you’re an adult. However, you might still be feeling sceptical when it comes to accepting that everyone has the capability to be multilingual. After all, adults may use more effective methods when it comes to learning a language, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anyone can do it. Or can they?
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Your Brain’s Neuron Power
Even if your brain is capable of benefiting physically from language learning, regardless of how old you are, you may be thinking that it simply isn’t naturally equipped to do so and therefore trying to learn a foreign tongue is useless. Although genetics can play a very minor role in which languages will be easier for you to learn, scientists don’t believe this is a big enough deterrent to make language learning impossible for anyone.
The problem most adults face when it comes to learning something new is that they aren’t quite sure how to use their brain to its maximum capability. According to a study carried out by neuroscientists in Cambridge, you can cement foreign vocabulary into your brain in less than 15 minutes! The study shows that your brain will form a new network of neurons whose job it is to help you remember that single word – as long as you listen to it 160 times in a 15 minute time span. When test subjects listened to a familiar word and then listened to a made up word for 15 minutes, scientists discovered that new memory traces were almost identical to those for the familiar word!
There you have it: anyone is capable of picking up new vocabulary as long as they apply the brain! Of course, it’s not always practical to spend fifteen minutes listening to a single vocabulary word over and over again. In this case, just remember that a new word needs to be used by you a minimum of 20 times before it truly ‘becomes your own’ – meaning a cemented part of your brain’s syntax. So in lieu of listening to the word over and over again, just use it frequently in your daily conversations to become a vocabulary master!
It’s surprising what your brain is capable of achieving, even as an adult with no perceivable language learning abilities. But science doesn’t lie and you’re out of excuses, so it’s time to put your super brain to work! Your brain may be naturally equipped to help you achieve language success, but you can’t rely solely on that, you need to take some practical steps as well. Sign up for some excellent language classes and keep your brain flexible with free online placement tests. Remember that it’s a question of mind over matter and never forget how powerful your brain really is!