Have you ever wondered what is the connection between learning languages and memory? You had probably had problems in memorizing new vocabulary and you most surely have heard old people say “I’m too old to start learning a new language now”. How are those things connected and is there a way to improve and strengthen that connection? Is there something more to multilingualism and are the hours spent behind the foreign-language schoolbooks actually beneficial for your mind? Let’s find out!
What is the connection between learning languages and memory?
The simplest way to illustrate it is – language is memory. Whenever we start speaking, it is the action of our brain recalling and putting together words following the rules it knows about their positioning and use. What is more, our brain is able to provide syntactic and emotional content to what we are saying.
Researchers from the University of Berkley proved that the connection between language and memory is materialized by a part of our brain called the hippocampus. This is the area of our brain that is responsible for associations and links between words and their meaning.
Whenever we are learning a new language we use all the parts of our brain that help with memorizing vocal and written information. We remember grammatical rules and use them by creating links between the words we know and our thought processes.
How does learning languages improve other aspects of your mental activity?
Learning a new language does not simply make you seem smarter – it actually makes you more intelligent. Apart from improving your memory and helping you remember more easily, it also helps you become more decisive. This is related to the multiple choices you have to make when speaking on a foreign language – you’re careful about your word choice, you think about sentence structures and you watch your grammar.
A new study conducted by Dr. Thomas Bak shows that learning a new language can also assist in building habits of filtrating information faster and more effectively:
Between 2008 and 2010 some 850 people, whose intelligence was tested back in 1947 were tapped into a study. It was found that the bilingual people in the group performed better than expected on the intelligence test, despite their age, and showed a less relative cognitive decline as opposed to the people who only spoke one language.
Does it matter at what age you would start studying a language?
Learning a new language means exercising your brain. This effort is connected to memorizing, building links and searching for correlations. While it might be harder for people of mature age to concentrate on taking in new information, it is not impossible. Experts even advice for people of age to “train” their brains more often by learning a language. The process might be slower, but the results are guaranteed!
What are some methods to learn a language faster?
A lot of English teachers believe it’s an old method to translate what you’re saying on your mother tongue. However, straightly speaking in a foreign language without stopping to think about vocabulary or check word’s meaning might create a wrong idea and comfort of knowing the language. So, building the habit of translating what you’re saying might help you with better understanding the language, getting the hang of peculiar phrases and knowing how to adequately answer in certain situations.
Starting by exploiting a small vocabulary in different sentences and cases and make it vaster by frequently and steadily adding more new, unknown words is another method that will help you expand and exploit your vocabulary. The idea lies in the fact that working with words you already know instead of just memorizing such you aren’t familiar with is much easier and helps effectively build knowledge. Also, you shouldn’t try and memorize words in only a written form – because of the connection between learning languages and memory, it is much easier for the brain to make a connection between a written text and a word you use verbally, such that you have already memorized not only visually.
There is one certain thing – learning a new language will do you no harm. Apart from making you more communicative and helping you understand your surroundings better, it also helps you strengthen your mind and develop skills you’ve never even thought of!