brain, plasticity, learning, language

Why Learning a New Language Is Investment In Mental Health

Our post-pandemic context brings us the urgency of constantly talking about Mental Health. We need to remember that our emotions, feelings of happiness and sadness, for example, take place within an organ that is little explored by us: the brain.

If we feel anxiety, we put our hands on our heart, if the stomach aches, on our belly, and then we look for remedies that promptly take away the pain – whether physical or mental.

However, we forget that the brain is in control of everything we are. So say the scientists and so, without minimizing other studies and philosophies, we bring it to the center of the conversation in learnwithscience. Come with us!

The first argument is that the Brain is Plastic, as Dr. Monika Patel of the University of California San Francisco explains in this clipped video.

New Skills and Brain Plasticity – University of California Television

Our brain is not just plastic in the first few years of life, but until we die we can change not only the way we think but the way we process our thoughts!

And as our motto is to learn and always learn more and better, we bring the argument that learning a new language will make us better! And not just better in the job market or better paid and better recognized, but better people for ourselves.

With better abilities to execute what the world asks for, but also more easily in dealing with adversity, with unforeseen, and active emotions that bring us insecurity and sadness.

We change our brain by walking along new paths, learning to brush our teeth with the non-dominant hand, and we do this too and in a complex and even deeper way, learning a new language.

It is estimated that a large part of the world’s population is bilingual because many countries have more than one language and many are the populations that migrate and live between cultures that require them to communicate in different languages.

So, if you already speak a second or third language, you can try to learn a third, or fourth, and keep practicing others so they don’t fall into disuse and become fossilized.

Executive brain functions related to updating, inhibiting and, switching between information are modified from the experience of multilingualism. The skills we mentioned allow us, for example, to perceive interferences around us – to make them aware, to increase our self-control. Also, through the ability to update, improve our working memory and, through flexibility, we change mental states and tasks in execution.

The explanation for these advantages would be in the fact that bilinguals, unlike monolinguals, are constantly selecting and monitoring the language to be used while inhibiting the other. This inhibition must happen because both languages seem to be constantly activated (…) (Dijkstra & Van Heuven). As this selection and inhibition mechanism is part of the executive control system, it seems natural that it is strengthened, benefiting cognition as a whole (Bialystok; Bialystok et al. (b); Kroll; Bobb & Hoshino) (LAMEIRA, et.al., 2020, p.203, author’s translation).

Therefore, we invite you to study, experience other cultures, and go beyond, whether running in your shoes on the streets or learning a new language through computer screens. Important is that you don’t stop, and don’t let the mind age rigidly!

Thank you for being with us, learnwithscience and until next time!


References: 

Lameira, M F N, et al. Languages in conflict: models for lexical access based on orthographic input in bilinguals or multilingual and the effect of multilingualism in the executive functions. Cadernos de Tradução 40.SPE2 (2020): 185-216.

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