Learning a new language is one of the most precious things you can do with your time and is an incredibly effective way to increase your intelligence and expand your mind and creativity. It’s not just about a new skill – it’s about learning a whole new programming language for your brain.
Many of us think of language in terms of the ways in which we can put it to practical use. In other words, learning a language is useful because it gives us the opportunity to speak to people in other countries and to impress people with our newly acquired skills.
In reality, however, the real impact of learning a language goes much further, and there are far more compelling reasons to try it. Here we’re going to look at the profound effects language learning has on your brain and the incredible value that it has.
Open your mind …
When you learn a new language, you not only learn that language, but you also get an in-depth look at another culture. Language shapes and reflects the way we think, and while the rules of language may seem largely logical on the surface, reality tends to be filled with strange expressions, idioms, traditions, and more. You cannot learn a new language without also learning some of this nation’s customs: When do you say please and thank you? How do you address your superiors? How do you address relatives?
In all of these ways, learning a language immediately sheds new light on that culture and makes you rethink. This in itself is fascinating because it helps you step out of your comfort zone and expand your mind – seeing things as others see them for a while.
At the same time, learning a new language and way of thinking enables you to think differently about topics and gives you a new framework for understanding a situation. Maybe it could help you to get less frustrated by this annoying colleague? Or to better understand a friend’s situation.
That way, learning a language is a bit like installing a new “operating system” in your brain. Now you’ll be running the same software and doing the same tasks, but the underlying “lens” through which you do these things will be slightly different. It’s like dual booting …
New tools for thinking
But it actually goes far beyond that. Because every time we think about a topic, we do so while using language. Our inner monologue consists of a narration in our mother tongue and that means that we use that language to think about these topics. Language is like programming for the brain.
To demonstrate how powerful this is, it is interesting to see that Japanese students appear to be able to perform mental sums faster than Western students. What is the reason for that? Some research suggests that the words they use to describe numbers are shorter in relation to the syllables. This means that you can “sound out” the sums in your head more quickly and calculate them more quickly.
Likewise, it’s fascinating to think about how cultures with more descriptive words for colors can actually see more colors. If you don’t have a word to describe a color, it turns out you might not be able to see it!
The secret to learning to read quickly is to separate your reading ability from the need to pronounce the words in your head.
In fact, some radical theories even suggest that human consciousness is language. That we wouldn’t be as confident as we are without language. Certainly our cognitive abilities are severely impaired when we cannot speak a language.
Learn a language – get smarter
This is why learning a language is so incredibly valuable. It is not only a tool for communication but also a tool for thought. The more ways you have to describe a situation, the better at using the right tools for the job. Learning a language – whether you’re studying Chinese or your Crusos de Ingles – is one of the best ways to expand your mind.