Why is learning a language good for the brain and which are the easiest one?
Understanding language is one of the hardest thing your brain does. The benefits of learning a second language seem, in fact, to be proportional to the effort expended by the brain. Because language is complex, speaking or learning a foreign language gives your brain a good workout.It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time when raising children in a bilingual home was believed to stunt their intellectual growth.
Experts thought their brains would become confused and that it might even contribute to schizophrenia or split identities. But times have changed. It’s now known that learning another language is one of the most effective and practical ways to increase intelligence, keep your mind sharp, and buffer your brain against aging.
Compared to people that speak one language, studies show that adults who speak multiple languages are more likely to:
have higher general intelligence (1) be better at planning, prioritising, and decision making (2) score higher on standardised math, reading, and vocabulary tests (3) be more perceptive of their surroundings(4) avoid falling for marketing hype (5) understand others’ points of view (6) have better focus, concentration, and attention (7) delay immediate gratification in the pursuit of long-term goals (8) have better memory and memorisation skills, including better working memory (9) exhibit mental flexibility (10) switch between tasks quickly(11) be creative (12) have good listening skills (13)
First things first: everyone’s different. There is a range of factors that can influence which language is the easiest for you to learn.
According to FSI, a few of the easiest for English speakers include Dutch,French, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Esperanto, Romanian and Swedish.
But remember learning ANY language can have a positive result on your brain!
According to asapscience, the 7,000 languages we learn today will likely dip to under 100 in a 1000 years. And I know this is a VERY long time from now, but we want to make a change.
I think this statement about "the easiest languages" is biased toward Indo-European languages.
Which languages you perceive as difficult largely depends on your native language. A person whose native language is Arabic, for example, may perhaps perceive Persian or Urdu as easier than the languages mentioned here because they use the same script.
I also don't think that there are "easy" languages per se. Some people say that English is quite easy. I think this is true for the initial levels of the language, but if you want to express yourself really well you have to do a lot of phrasal-verb memorizing and prepositions-adoring. ... sigh
Just my thoughts.
It's biased towards Indo-European languages because it's aimed at speakers of an Indo-European language.
As you said in your second paragraph, ease is relative to one's mother tongue.
On another note, Arabic and Urdu may share a script, but Urdu ends to be easier for speakers of IE languages to pick up as it's in the same family. Common scripts don't tend to make a language that much easier to learn- compare how easy it is for Polish speakers to learn Russian with how easy it is for English speakers to learn Xhosa or Vietnamese.
Well, the Foreign Service Institute sets people up for diplomacy work, in embassies or as politicians and aides etc. I suppose one might unknowingly trip over one or two Esperanto speakers in this sort of role, but it does make more sense for the FSI to focus on natural languages (especially widely-spoken national languages); nobody is going to be speaking Esperanto in an official capacity, as the language of their government.
Well, I have to agree as someone who has been abke to speak French for 35 years :)
But seriously, I am learning Italian now because I travel a lot to Italy, loving the food, culture, wine and people. I started really enjoying it, and then I discovered that there is evidence that learning a new language may have a significant effect on reducing a decline in cognitive ability as we age. That gave me a boost and encouraged me to persevere.
I can definitely see how speaking multiple languages could improve one's ability to understand other people's points of view. You need to think differently in order to speak a new language well, and this would encourage one to adapt one's perspective. I'm not sure it has helped me in that regard, it is very difficult to tell, but I am fairly tolerant of contrary ideas expressed to me if they are coherent.
Having said that, my mother is Austrian and learned to speak English very well (better than most English) aged 18, and she is probably the most intolerant person I know! (it's not just me saying that either)
As for intelligence, I doubt it. Apparent intelligence, perhaps, but then watching TV has a significant negative effect on apparent intelligence, so lots of things can affect that. Exercising the brain will make it work better, this is true. We are truly fantastic beings if you think about it. Doing almost anything continually will, up to limits that we always seem to push forward, allow us to do that task better. This alone should encourage anyone to do as much as they are able!
I'm aiming to learn Italian, improve my French, perhaps learn German to communicate with my Austrian relatives, learn to sail, improve my beer-making skills, and who knows what else :)