15 Reasons Why Learning A Foreign Language Is Good For Your Brain

15 Reason Why Language Learning Is Good For Your BrainYou’ve dreamed about it for years. Opening your mouth and fluently speaking a foreign language. You know just how deeply that ability would fill the wide open gap in your soul.

You may not be fully aware of why your monolingualism hurts so bad, but in this post you’ll discover 15 reasons to find out what you’re missing.

Let’s explore each of these and see how each can inspire you to get started learning a language today. There’ll be some powerful tips and action steps for you at the end so you can get started today.


Learning A Language Exercises Your Brain


Do you ever feel like your mind has gone a bit soft?

Chances are it does feel a little doughy. The good news is that learning a language is one of the best long-term workouts you can get. Working with new words and grammar rules gets multiple areas of the brain working together.

And because you get to think familiar thoughts from a completely new angle, your perspective stretches more profoundly than looking at an M.C Escher painting ever will.


Language Learning Develops Discipline


Languages are fun, but also require consistency of exposure and effort. Luckily, access to languages has never been easier thanks to the Internet.

However, you do have to click over to the right websites and invest your time optimally. Sites like Duolingo and Memrise offer some help, but you’ll also want to find resources that capture all of the “Big Five Musts” of language learning:

  • Memorizing
  • Reading
  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Writing

The good news is that you can get each of these done in the first half hour of your day with an additional one hour or less in speaking practice with a tutor per week.

Covering The Big Five Of Language Learning is especially easy if you develop the discipline of consistently getting your language learning in before you even switch on the computer. There’s more information about making sure you get all of these done within the first 15-30 minutes of your day in my case study Mandarin Chinese Mnemonics And Morning Memory Secrets.

After you’ve covered your daily language learning activities first thing in the morning, you’ll never never suffer the dreaded Zeigarnik Effect which creates intrusive thoughts when we’re not focusing on things we need to get done.

For the rest of your day, you can check in on your language periodically by stocking up on podcasts, watching some Youtube videos in your target language and by using the technique taught at the end of this article.

Finally, work on understanding motivation in the context of language learning. Master your motivation and you’ll make steady strides toward fluency in no time.


Language Study Deepens Your Appreciation
And Understanding Of Your Mother Tongue


You rarely ponder it and yet it’s in front of your eyes and on your mind all day long. It even dominates your dreams. Yes, your mother tongue is that prevalent.

But just imagine understanding the ins and outs of your mother tongue at a higher level. The benefits are wide reaching and knowledge of how and why we speak as we do will enrich many aspects of your life.

Your mother tongue is also downright amusing when you realize how many weird things we say. And as I suggest in this video…

You won’t get this level of silent education and amusement while walking down the street in any other way, so pay attention to the odd nature and quality of the phrases we speak. Ezra Pound called this element the logopoeia of language and it is profound.


New Languages Exercise The
Muscles Of Your Mouth And Ears


There are spots on your tongue that you didn’t know you have. Lots of them.

And that’s not to mention the backs of your teeth and the terrain of your palette. When learning a new language, these places suddenly become a vast world ready for exploration.

Your ears develop exciting new abilities too. You’ll automatically start picking up on variations in sound and your attentiveness to detail will improve. All languages are musical and syncing your ears with your mouth makes you both the player and the instrument. Prepare to bloom.


Your Cultural Knowledge And Understanding Expands


Want to know why some people tick as they do? Learn about their culture from the inside looking out instead of trying to peer in.

Whether it’s history, politics, cinema, literature, theater or music, the ability to study and experience these aspects of a culture from within its language is inspiring. Even sculpture and painting take on new dimensions when you can read the plaques in your target language.

The best part is that your interest in the culture will expand. When you start learning the language of a new culture you’re interested in, prepare for your curiosity to increase twelve-fold (or more).


Numbers And Math Concepts Will Grow Your
Logical And Conceptual Abilities


Learning to count and perform basic math operations in another language can feel a bit like learning to tie your shoelaces all over again.

Different languages express numbers and the time of day in unique ways that can be puzzling to the point of frustration. But push through and you’ll be delighted by your ability to think backward, sideways, upside down and in some cases completely opposite to your norms. Win in this department and you’ll enjoy one of the highest forms of mental triumph you can experience.


Learning Languages Boosts Self-Esteem And Confidence


The great thing about the long game of learning languages is that there are countless victories along the way.Click To Tweet

Small achievements build up you can feel proud of yourself again and again with greater intensity as your accomplishments grow.

And it’s not just about your self-esteem. Here’s how to teach your kids memory techniques.


New Languages Retrain Your Eyes


You’ve seen the word “baker” thousands of times. But how about “Bäcker”? You recognize it in principle, but it looks weird with that extra letter and the umlaut, right?

It sure does, though no more or less than “baker” looks to a German-speaker who can also probably figure out what the word means in English thanks to the similarity in spelling.

It’s a beautiful thing when you’re able to see connections between languages, but it takes training. And you’ll often do a Homer Simpson-forehead smack when you figure out similarities that should have been more obvious. That’s just part of growing.

Then there’s the matter of completely new character sets. Few languages will challenge your ability to recognize patterns and associate sounds with symbols than Japanese or Chinese.

Yet, once you’ve got your foot in the door, you’ll grow by leaps and bounds and get to explore yet another dimension of logical arrangements you previously could not understand.


One Or More Extra Languages Widens Your Job Prospects


Even if that job you’re dreaming of doesn’t require proficiency in another language, what boss or hiring committee won’t recognize your discipline and enhanced thinking abilities as an advantage?

You can position yourself better and even open a company up to new opportunities that were previously closed to them when they hire you.

If you’re a freelancer, your pool of possibilities is also broader, as is your potential for networking.


New Languages = New Friends
Lots Of Them


It’s not that people who speak only your mother tongue bore you. But you are a curious person with multiple interests and you don’t want to get tapped out or caught in the hamster wheel of friendships that cannot grow.

That’s why meeting new people you can speak to from within their culture can be so profound. You get the benefit of learning about their world and expressing details about yours. You can then bring new things back to your old friendship circles. This sharing breathes new life into everything and creates a perfect circle between the old and new.

Just make sure you don’t tell your friends any of these 5 Lies About Language Learning. They not true and only drag everyone down, especially you.


Location. Location. Location.


What better way to enjoy what you’ll learn from your new friends than to visit their homeland?

Not only that, but you’ll be able to hold conversations with the locals, order in restaurants with confidence and even complain in hotels about the water temperature if you wish.


Language Learning Slows You Down


This feature of learning language might sound like a minus, but in our sped-up world, nothing could be healthier than taking the time to learn deeply at a slower pace.

And that’s important because scientists know exactly why bilingualism makes for a healthier brain.

Just like you don’t want to abandon the training wheels on a bike too soon, learning a language requires you to master a number of fundamentals. Gain traction with these and you can tackle the next level (and the level after that) with consistency, clarity and the certainty that you’re getting it right.


Learning A Language Teaches You A Ton About How To Learn


Learning languages requires strategies that apply to learning anything. You can bring outside tactics to help you as you explore a new language, but more importantly, you’ll take a lot of new approaches away for other kinds of learning.

For example, you’ll learn how to assess what you don’t yet know how to say and find resources to fill in the gaps. You can transfer this ability to any communication-based activity. You’ll spot missing words and note the need for clarity when writing or editing. Conference interpreters in particular need these skills.


Learning Vocabulary And Phrases Exercises Your Memory


When learning a language, you are playing an extended game of memory.Click To Tweet

Retention and recall advance you through the levels, and even in your mother tongue, it’s impossible to plateau. There are always more words to learn and memorize.


How To Learn And Memorize Any Word
Or Phrase In Any Language Fast


The great thing about consciously using your memory while learning vocabulary and phrases is that you don’t have to rely on painful rote learning. Although index cards and spaced-repetition software certainly have their place, the ancient art of memory, or mnemonics, offers powerful techniques for boosting your vocabulary in record time.

The Memory Palace is one of the most effective memory techniques for language learning because you can group related words together.

For example, a Memory Palace is an imaginary replica of a place you know, ideally a building like your home, school or workplace.

If you can imagine the journey from your bedroom to the kitchen, then you’re already well on your way to creating your first Memory Palace. If you need more help, you can use the Magnetic Memory Method Masterplan.

To do it right, draw out a floor plan of your chosen building. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just recognizable enough for you to recognize a distinct route. Try to move from the inside out and avoid crossing your path.


How To Use The Magnetic Journey Method For
Learning Your Foreign Language


Then choose a number of “Magnetic Stations” along the route you’ve created. Attempt to have at least ten in your first Memory Palace, using spots like the corner of each room, tables, chairs and doorways.

Next, get together the vocabulary you want to memorize. It can be random words or a list based on themes like travel. You can also memorize lists of verbs, nouns, adjectives or all of the preposition.

Finally, you create a “Magnetic Bridging Figure.” Base your Magnetic Bridging Figure on a real person or an actor for best results.

Cartoon characters also work well. The easier it is for you to see this character interacting with different objects the better. And if you can associate the figure with the sounds of the words, you will be memorizing at the highest possible level.

For example, let’s say you’ve got a short list of German adjectives:

  • Bockig
  • Dunkel
  • Weich

To get started with memorizing German vocabulary, you could imagine James Bond in your bedroom. “Bockig” means “stubborn,” so you could see Bond stubbornly whipping a block of ice with licorice. If you take a few seconds to exaggerate this weird image, you’ll find that it’s hard to shake from your mind.

Plus, when you revisit the image in your bedroom later, it will remind you that the word you’re looking for starts with “bo” thanks to James Bond.

The “ck” sound in “block” will help you recall the “ck” sound in the target word and the liquorice in the image will help you recall the final “ish” sound. The more “stubborn” Bond looks in your image and the more exaggerated you make the action and colors, the better you’ll be able you recall the sound and meaning of the word.

The description you’ve just read may sound complicated, but that’s because you’re reading a mnemonic create by someone else. Once you start using this technique on your own, it will soon become second nature to you. And if you need more help, you can always register for How to Learn and Memorize The Vocabulary Of Any Language.


How To Use James Bond For Language Learning In A Memory Palace


Here’s another example:

Let’s say that James Bond is now in your kitchen. You’ve got a basketball net in there and you see Bond slam “dunk” the letter “l” through the hoop. If you see the hoop as a dark black hole, then it will be simple to recall that dunk + l = dunkel, which means dark.

To give a final example, “weich” means soft in German. By the door leading out of your home, you could see James Bond squeezing a viper between the jaws a soft and furry vice. Make it exaggerated and funny so that the imagery leaps out at you and the details make it easy to decode both the sound and meaning of the word.

Again, these examples only demonstrate the guidelines of how mnemonics work. You’ll need to experiment and create your own images based on the words you want to learn and memorize.

How to manage it all? I suggest using The Freedom Journal.

In whatever language you’re using, avoid getting stalled by looking for one-to-one correspondences between the images and words. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how easily your mind brings it all together based on near-associations.

All that remains is to rehearse the Magnetic Journey Method in your mind a sufficient number of times until the words enter long-term memory.

You can speed up the memorization process further by writing sentences using the words and speaking those sentences in a conversation. Casually mentioning to people what you’ve memorized and how you did it using mnemonics is also a great way to solidify new vocabulary and phrases.

Finally, you can follow these steps for every letter of the alphabet. For example, here are some Hindi Alphabet Memory Palace secrets from a Magnetic Memory Method student.


There Are No Magic Bullets In Language Learning
(And That Is A Beautiful Thing)


It’s normal and natural to look for shortcuts. But when it comes to language learning, there aren’t any. In fact, shortcuts, like SMART goals, aren’t necessarily desirable.

Why? Because you benefit so much from the learning process. You develop patience, stamina and the ability to juggle many moving parts. In today’s age when computers are bearing so much cognitive load on our behalf, more than ever we need to have this kind of mental activity to keep our brains fit and our mental lives stimulating.

Above all, by not seeking shortcuts and just getting down to learning, you learn to deal with imperfect communication. This process teaches you to come at problems from different angles until you’ve made things clear.

And not seeking shortcuts is easy… So long as you’re in the G.A.P.:

In a world with over 7000 languages, getting in the language learning G.A.P. and staying there is a skill worth having. In every tongue.

16 Responses

  1. Did I really read this post and turn it down as a guest post?

    I have no idea why because it’s excellent and I can only imagine I was having a brain fart or confusing it with another post.

    Shared on SM

  2. Thank’s Anthony for this article.
    I have question about learning chunks for example chunk “out of the blue”. How to learn them? I have 26 A-Z memory palaces for vocabulary. What is your recommendation? New memory palace or use memory palaces which I have? Thank’s for reply

    1. Thanks for the kinds words, Jindrar.

      I would put this in your “O” Memory Palace. I treat phrases as if they are individual words. The technique doesn’t differ much at all.

      Keep us posted on how you proceed.

  3. Hi Anthony! Great article! I actually have an assignment for my journalism class that is addressing how learning a new language changes the brain! I was wondering if you could email me a couple of main ways languages change the brain. I need sources as if it is an interview, sadly I cannot just source your article; I need to source you. Let me know if that would be possible!

    1. Hi Nadia,

      Thanks kindly for your post.

      I’m not sure how having me email you some resources serves as an interview, however. I was a university professor for several years and can’t imagine this approach working as means of gathering meaningful primary or secondary evidence.

      Have you considered visiting a library for help in finding the must cutting edge scientific research in this area? I’m sure you would find the contact addresses of the scientists themselves and potentially get an interview with them.

      If I was a professor grading your assignment, that kind of journalistic footwork would impress me a great deal.

  4. All I learn about memory is in english, I look at podcasts, read, learn etc all in english but my mother tongue is french, so all is ok but when I try to put in a memory palace well i’m confused between my english and my french, so wondering if it is best to implement in mother tongue or learning language.

    1. Thanks for this, Francoise.

      Generally, I recommend that people focus on the language they are learning. That way you train your mind to go to the target language.

      You could try and “kickstart” the process by encoding your words in French and then leaping to English, but I strong suggest that this will ultimately defeat the purpose. Use it as a last resort.

      Another thing to consider is the extent to which you are creating your mnemonic imagery well and how well formed your Memory Palaces come out during the creation process.

      If you haven’t taken our free training, I recommend you start with that first. Many people who create Memory Palaces are using them inefficiently. There is so much to be gained by improving this process.

      Likewise with their mnemonic images. They focus on the wrong aspects of the craft and that causes issues.

      Again, please take or review the free training and make sure you’re really dialed in to the aspects of the technique that make the biggest difference and continue to focus on your target language so that your mind leaps “Magnetically” to those words and phrases and not to your mother tongue first as that will cause a blip.

  5. Hi Professor Anthony, Thank you very much for all your great tips, about learning a new language. I am a lady 50 years old, and my husband is from Japan. We had decided to go back to Japan as missionaries. I need to learn the Japanese language. But sometimes, I get discourage that at my age this will be very difficult. My tongue language is Spanish. I would like to ask your opinion, or if you have any more tips, that could help me. Thank you very much in advance for your response. LIdia

    1. Thanks for your post, Lidia.

      Discouragement can happen at any age, so please don’t make being 50 an explanation for normal emotional experiences.

      Basically, language learning boils down to creating a game that you can actually win. You need a number of elements in play at once, which is sometimes called the levels of processing effect. I call it the Big 5 of Language Learning:

      Into memory and from memory

      Using a dedicated Memory Palace technique has helped countless people, but there are other approaches.

      Whether one follows this approach or that, you need to commit to consistency with one of the approaches for long enough to understand its ins and outs. 90 days is a basic minimum to spend with an approach, provided its sound and logical.

      I hope this helps and that you can find something you’re able to work with for at least that long. In 90 days, you can have acquired a substantial amount of vocabulary and phrases, so please find something you want to work with and stick with it. That’s the “secret.”

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Anthony Metivier is the founder of the Magnetic Memory Method, a systematic, 21st century approach to memorizing foreign language vocabulary, names, music, poetry and more in ways that are easy, elegant, effective and fun.

Dr. Metivier holds a Ph.D. in Humanities from York University and has been featured in Forbes, Viva Magazine, Fluent in 3 Months, Daily Stoic, Learning How to Learn and he has delivered one of the most popular TEDx Talks on memory improvement.

His most popular books include, The Victorious Mind and… Read More

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