Learning Foreign Languages Improves Brain

November 8, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. sharpen / ˈʃɑr pən / (v.) – to improve or make something better
Example: Solving puzzles sharpens a person’s logical thinking.

2. subject / ˈsʌb dʒɪkt / (n.) – an individual involved in an experiment
Example: The subjects of the experiment were all female students.

3. acquisition / ˌæk wəˈzɪʃ ən / (n.) – the act of gaining something, such as a skill or a knowledge
Example: The acquisition of a second language may be challenging. 

4. responsive / rɪˈspɒn sɪv / (adj.) – easily affected or influenced
Example: Children are more responsive to new knowledge. 

5. impediment / ɪmˈpɛd ə mənt / (n.) – a condition that prevents someone from doing something normally
Example: Some speech impediments do not require treatment.


Read the text below.
Researchers have found proof that learning foreign languages sharpens the mind.

Scientists from the Higher Institute of Economics and the University of Helsinki /ˈhɛl sɪŋ ki/ studied 22 Finnish students with an average age of 24. All of the students were exposed only to their native language as children. However, they later on studied several foreign languages, as required by the Finnish educational system.

The subjects answered a questionnaire about the number of languages they know, the age they first acquired it, and their proficiency in the language. Then, they listened to several native and foreign words while their brain’s electrical activity was being recorded.

Findings showed greater electrical activity in the brain of subjects who know more foreign languages and have an earlier age of acquisition. The scientists discovered that exposure to foreign languages makes the brain more ready to learn. In fact, foreign language learners have greater brain plasticity, which means that they are more responsive to new information. 

Infants and very young children have a very high level of plasticity, which allows them to learn rapidly. However, the brain naturally becomes less plastic or flexible over time, making it more difficult for adults to learn new skills. 

Researchers said that the discovery can help in studies on speeding up the learning process.   Aside from that, the research may also be useful in diagnosing and treating speech impediments. Plasticity helps in the recovery of people who lost the ability to speak after a stroke or an accident. Upon sustaining an injury, the brain’s plasticity allows it to create new connections to recover lost functions.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         What are the benefits of learning a new language? Discuss.
·         Aside from a foreign language, what other skills are you interested to learn?

Discussion B

·         Why is it important to learn more about the brain’s plasticity? Explain.
·         What other brain function are you interested to research about? Why?

November 8, 2016