BY THOMAS HOLL
Yes, you can spark new brain cells! The spontaneous growth of new brain cells can occur at any point in your life. It’s specifically spurred by a number of activities, a key one being learning new things, like a second or third language.”
Speaking more than one language has obvious benefits, like increasing your job prospects–and dating prospects. In fact, studies have shown that people who are multilingual are found to be more attractive than people who speak only one language.
However, there are many less superficial benefits of language learning like warding off the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s. A June 2014 study from the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology says if you learn a second language—even in adulthood—it can stave off dementia for at least a few years. Turns out learning a second language in adulthood can promote memory, improve multitasking skills, increase attention, and more.
How does it work?
There’s a phenomenon called neurogenesis that happens in your brain. Basically, it’s the spontaneous growth of new brain cells that can occur at any point in your life. It’s specifically spurred by a number of activities, a key one being learning new things, like a second or third language.
Babbel, a leading mobile language-learning tool for fourteen different languages, surveyed over 5,000 of its users on their motivations for learning a new language. The two most common responses were to communicate better when traveling (26%) and out of interest in the language (22%). But the third most popular reason was to keep mentally fit (17%), showing that the perception of language learning is changing. Age, naturally, was a crucial variable in the study—over 30% of people more than 70-years-old saw language learning as a way to keep mentally fit, while only 5% of people under 18 felt that way.
Online tools are readily available
Learning a new language later in life can be intimidating, but with all of the different language learning tools available today, picking up a new language can actually be fun and inexpensive. For example, apps like Babbel offer interactive, fun courses and are supported by technology that can help you refine your skills, like listening to you speak to correct your pronunciation. In fact, the great thing about apps like Babbel is that you can download the app for free and start with basic courses before you select the language and tool that works best for you.
With so many modern advances and the chance to keep your mind young, there has never been a better time to start learning how to say Hola, Bonjour, Ciao, Hallo, and so on.
Thomas Holl is the Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Babbel, an award-winning language learning tool, and leads the development and the operation of the platform. He studied computer science at the University of Marburg and at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).