Exercise Your Brain by Learning a New Language
It is no mystery that the secret to preventing memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is to ensure your brain stays active throughout your life.
Largely fueled by the concerns and fears of the aging baby boomers, there is a thriving business surrounding this topic and you can now find numerous books, articles, games, courses, websites and other products dedicated to helping you maintain a healthy and properly functioning brain.
Luckily, this is not all just hype and there has been extensive scientific research surrounding this topic. A quick internet search will fetch you volumes of information on related studies so I won’t go into technical detail here except to summarize that findings show that when the brain is stimulated to produce new neural pathways (connections between brain cells) on a continuous basis, throughout your life, the brain will continue to grow and improve.
Neurologists have reported that by spending only 20 minutes, 3 times a week, practicing mental exercises you can reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 70%. And so, what is an effective brain exercise? It has been discovered that for a brain exercise to be beneficial it needs to meet three criteria; one, it needs to engage your attention, two, it must involve more than one of the senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste), and three, it must break a routine activity in an unexpected, nontrivial way.
Learning a new language is recognized as being a highly effective brain exercise because it strongly meets and even exceeds all three of these criteria.
One, you must focus intently to make progress in your lessons thus making your brain work strenuously. You have to listen to a word or phrase, repeat back the word or phrase and at the same time your mind has to translate the meaning of words from and to your native language. Add memorization, listening, reading and writing to the list and your brain will feel the workout.
Two, you must use sight, sound and speech to properly speak and understand a new language. Although speech is not one of the five senses, it does require the brain to interpret and organize the information from the other senses and to formulate a response using motor-skills thereby exceeding criteria number two.
Three, If you only speak one language than it is probably safe to assume that learning a new language would not be a routine activity for you. Even if you already speak multiple languages, each new language brings new concepts and challenges to the brain.
Besides the obvious benefit of brain longevity, learning a new language will provide other benefits such as confidence when traveling to the country where your new language is spoken and perhaps it could even open doors for certain careers.
There are many ways to learn a new language ranging from formal classroom style courses to self-paced video, audio or online computer courses. My personal preference is online computer courses mainly because when cleverly designed, they are highly interactive, entertaining and transportable (that is if you have a laptop or access to multiple computers).
A well designed computer based language courses will offer a variety of learning techniques such as audio, video, text, games and quizzes providing an even greater opportunity to flex your brain muscles.
About the Author
Kelly Winter is just one of the many baby boomers concerned with keeping healthy, active and alert as she enjoys the next phase of her life. She enjoys travelling the world and has had great fun and success learning to speak Spanish with the rocket language program which offers all the benefits mentioned in her article. Check it out at Rocket Languages and start to challenge your brain now.