‘New research is throwing up evidence that learning a new language makes your brain more receptive to learning. Earlier, it used to be thought only children benefited from this exercise. Now you can too!’
The fact that learning a new language adds layers to the human brain has been an old one. But until now, scientists used to think that this effect is more marked if the brain is still elastic – i.e. the owner of the brain is in his childhood or pre-teen years. However, recent studies have shown up the surprising finding that no matter how old you are, whether you are 4 or whether you’re 84, the effect of learning a new language on your brain is similar. Your brain will grow and add grey matter at the same rate regardless of your age.
The Penn State team decided to observe the brain activity of native English-speakers as they went through the process of learning Chinese – specifically, Mandarin – vocabulary. They gathered 39 volunteers of varying ages and scanned their brains over a six-week period as half of them took part in language lessons and the other half acted as control subjects. The participants were put through two functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, one before the experiment began and then another one after six weeks, and the team observed the physical changes that had occurred.
The evidence showed conclusively that when compared to the people who did not participate in language lessons, those that did had brains that underwent more functional and structural changes. Their brain networks had become better integrated, which means they’re more flexible and allows for faster and more efficient learning.
So no matter how old you are, remember that you’re not too old to learn a new language!

Montasir Ahmed

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