It's been well documented that keeping the brain agile and nimble is beneficial for ensuring prolonged cognitive function and memory. Besides exercising your brain with puzzles, mind maps and other thought-provoking activities, one of the best ways to keep your brain ticking is to learn a new language.
Now I must point out that even learning a new language may not prevent the onset of degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer's, it may help delay the disease's symptoms from appearing. Nevertheless, according to this article on the Time website, the following excerpt sheds some light on the benefits of learning a new language:
“In a study of 450 Alzheimer's patients, led by Ellen Bialystok, a psychology professor at York University in Toronto, those who were bilingual for most of their lives were able to stave off symptoms of Alzheimer's for four to five years longer than people who spoke only one language.”
It's based on the same concept as the use-it-or-lose-it reasoning that encourages people to do crosswords puzzles and constantly keeping the brain active. It’s said that such activities help improve the brain’s cognitive reserve which is believed to help the brain cope with the loss of neurons as Alzheimer’s Disease starts to take effect.
Growing up in South Africa - a country that has 11 official languages - I was privileged enough to be taught three languages at school. My wife is of Portuguese descent and we speak to our 9-month son in both English and Portuguese. Living in New Zealand is great because there are so many different cultures and languages in every community... Chinese, French, Hindi and Spanish to name just a few.
My wife and I have decided to try encourage our son to learn at least two other languages such as Chinese and Spanish throughout his childhood to not only help him gain an appreciation for the culture and respect for the people who speak the language, but also to help keep his brain active and healthy.
It should also help him meet new people, make new friends and experience new lifestyles in many countries across the world – both from a business and a personal perspective.
It may sound daunting at first but learning a new language is a great way to flex your brain while laughing and having fun at the same time. It’s also an excellent way to meet new people from different cultures and backgrounds. We live in a global village after all so why not make the most of it and choose a language you’d like to start learning today.