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|- 8 Steps for Success
Let's talk about brain power.
For a long time, it was thought that the only way to really learn a language
was to do it early. It was thought that after adolescence, you couldn’t
learn a language perfectly. But we now know that that’s not true, because
there are many people who learn languages as adults, and they learn them
Further, learning a language in later life results in many positive cognitive
outcomes. Let's look at a few:
1) Researchers have found that learning a new language improves
intelligence and verbal fluency. Their findings indicate that speaking more
than one language has a significant effect on cognitive abilities including
general intelligence. What is more, the study shows marked cognitive
improvements in attention, focus and fluency.
2) Because language-learning and use are so complex – probably the most
complex behaviour we human beings engage in – it involves many levels.
You have speech sounds, syllables, words, grammar, sentences, syntax.
There’s so much happening at the same time; it really is a workout for a
wide brain network.
3) And those areas of the brain overlap with the ones in which aging adult
brains show decline or neurological pathological disease. As a result, we
can say that learning a second language is an optimal activity to promote
4) Speaking two or more languages stimulates the development of
creativity, idea generation, problem-solving and cultural awareness.
extensive exposure, and
5) People who speak two or more languages have access to an expanded
conceptual representation, which promotes the integration of
contradictory concepts and increases cognitive flexibility.
6) Knowing different languages adds layers of subtle distinctions to the
same idea, which is why bi- or multi-linguals have access to a wider range
of possible solutions to any problem.
7) Memory is also benefitted by speaking two or more languages: there
are two memory systems in our brain. The first is our short-term memory
(like a USB or memory stick that has limited space) and the second is our
longer-term memory with unlimited space (like a hard drive).
Part of the reason why many people are unsuccessful at learning a second
language is because, as learners, they don't take the extra step needed to
consolidate what they learn, that is, to send new information to our
deeper, long-term memory. This leads to any new information being lost
or becoming useless, as our short-term memory can only hold a limited
amount of information.
Consolidating new vocabulary and grammatical structures requires
1. Increased awareness is based on understanding. There's no point in
"half-learning" something we will not be able to put into practice later.
When we try and say something in English and realise that we don't have
the vocabulary or the grammar to express that idea, we need to find out
how to say it as accurately as possible first (using a bilingual dictionary, for
example) and then - and this is the crucial point - we must understand the
words, phrases and grammatical structure before we can commit them to
our long-term memory. Without understanding, this transfer cannot take
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