A second language not only opens doors to other cultures, it allows us to discover ourselves in a different light. In addition, it gives us a different perspective and constructive insight on the use of our own native language. The AUCP’s language pledge and commitment to cultural immersion gives students their best chance at French fluency, and for good reason! Recent research underlines the incredible psychological benefits of learning another language, benefits that extend way beyond being able to « get by » in a foreign country:
Language centers in the brain actually grow as a result of successful language learning. The better you learn, the more those vital areas of the brain grow (Mårtensson et al., 2012).
2. Stave off dementia
Bilingualism delays Alzheimer’s disease in susceptible people by as much as five years (Craik et al., 2010). This seems incredible, but the studies are continuing to support this result.
3. Hear language better
Being bilingual can lead to improved listening skills, since the brain has to work harder to distinguish different types of sounds in two or more languages (Krizman et al., 2012).
4. Become more language sensitive
Infants in bilingual households can distinguish languages they’ve never even heard before (Werker & Sebastian-Galles, 2011). Just being exposed to the different sounds in, for example, Spanish and Catalan, helps them tell the difference between English and French.
5. Boost your memory
Babies brought up in a bilingual environment have stronger working memories than those brought up with only one language (Morales et al., 2013). This means they are better at mental calculation, reading and many other vital skills.
6. Better multi-tasking
Bilingual people can switch from one task to another more quickly. They show more cognitive flexibility and find it easier to adapt to unexpected circumstances (Gold et al., 2013)
7. Increased attention
Bilinguals have stronger control over their attention and are better able to limit distractions (Bialystok & Craik, 2010).
8. Double the activation
Cognitive boosts, like improved attention and better multi-tasking, may come because bilingual people have both languages activated at the same time, and must continually monitor which one is appropriate (Francis, 1999). All that switching back and forth confers the mental benefits.
9. New ways of seeing
Learning a new language can literally change the way you see the world. Learning Japanese, for example, which has separate terms for light and dark blue, may help you perceive the color in different ways (Athanasopoulos et al., 2010). There are 7 times more words in the English language than in French, which certainly affects the way speaking in one language or another can affect perception and expression.
10. Improve your first language
Since learning a second language draws your attention to the abstract rules and structure of language in general, it can make you better at your first language.
So, what are you waiting for? Take on the AUCP challenge: speak French non-stop, immerse yourself in French culture and get your best chance at French fluency.