Why learning a second language boosts thinking skills and mental agility

Developing bilingual employees can dramatically improve their brain power, according to one expert.

Why learning a second language boosts thinking skills and mental agility

Business strategy


L&D Professional has written previously about the productivity and engagement benefits language training can bring to business.

Now, new evidence has emerged that learning a second language can improve thinking and learning ability.

The studies also showed that becoming bilingual will improve mental agility and reduce the chances of developing dementia.

Indeed, evidence has demonstated that certain types of dementia appear up to five years later for people who speak a second language.

In particular, the results found that both adults and children benefit from the extra effort it takes to learn two sets of vocabularies and rules of grammar.

Professor Antonella Sorace of the University of Edinburgh said that bilingualism “opens in the mind” and that “knowledge of languages can be of benefit, no matter what you do”.

“And also the understanding of other cultures, being able to travel and talk to people, that’s part of opening the mind in a broader sense,” she said.

Sorace’s study involved looking at retired people who underwent a week-long intensive course in Gaelic on the Isle of Skye.

 “They didn’t know a word of Gaelic, so we tested them beforehand and after a week of a very intensive course - five hours a day.

“And sure enough, when we compared them with other active retired people who were doing a course on something else, not just couch potatoes, we found in those who were doing a language course that the brain responds.

“So even when you are in your 60s or 70s, your brain responds.”

In particular, the people taking on the second language showed improvements in attention and thinking.

“We found this one-week intensive language course led to an improvement in cognitive function. It’s a significant improvement,” she said.

Related stories:

Why some employees learn languages better than others

Why businesses should invest  in language training

The preceding article was originally published on our sister site Learning & Development

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