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Repost: Language Learning And Neuroplasticity

Turns out that learning a second language is more beneficial and important than we'd thought.

Did anyone ever ask you why you're learning a "useless language"? Well here is what you can respond:

Researchers have found that studying a language enhances brain plasticity and capacity for learning.

Learning a language increases the power of neuroplasticity. if you are unfamiliar with the word neuroplasticity, it is the ability of the brain to form and recognize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury. (There are a lot of explanations on Google. I put the simplest one. )

Without this ability for the brain to modify its connections or rewire itself, any brain would be unable to develop from infancy through to adulthood or recover from brain injury.

I came across this fantastic research that brings experimental evidence to the correlation between language learning and neural plasticity. I won't add the entire thing to this post, just the highlights. Here's the link: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/312708.php

These researchers found that understanding the brain mechanisms involved in acquiring language helps enormously in the diagnosis and treatment of people with impaired speech following accidents strokes and other related conditions.

it also suggests that the more foreign languages we learn, the faster the brain responds and processes the data it absorbs during learning. In other words, the study suggests loading the mind with more knowledge boosts its ability to acquire more.

Here's another article I found: "Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s tendency to undergo structural reconfiguration in response to environmental stimulus, cognitive demand or behavioural experience. Recent research has begun to examine neuroplasticity as a function of language acquisition. The evidence uncovered suggests that learning and using multiple languages induces changes in brain anatomy including functional neural patterns. These changes can occur rapidly and regardless of age.

The brain is made up of two types of tissues: gray matter and white matter. Gray matter contains the cell bodies of neurons whereas white matter refers to the axon bundles that connect different regions of gray matter to each other and carry nerve impulses between neurons. Gray matter density or volume is directly associated with general intelligence, memory, attention and language. White matter, on the other hand, governs the speed of information processing and memory recall and facilitates the travel of never impulses between neurons.

A study conducted by Stein et al. (2012) measured structural changes in the brain’s prefrontal and temporal cortices along with gray matter density, as a result of second language acquisition. The participants, who had minimal knowledge of the target language, underwent an intensive course that lasted three weeks. The researchers observed an increase in gray matter density, especially in the frontal lobes. These changes were directly attributed to second language acquisition.

Martensson et al. (2012) conducted another study targeting adult learners, specifically. The researchers observed significantly large increases in cortical thickness due to second language exposure. Increases in hippocampal volume were also noted. Both these studies concluded that language acquisition increases gray matter density and plasticity in the brain.

A third study, published in the Journal of Brain and Language, compared the white matter structure between monolinguals and Spanish-English bilingual adults living in the United States. The studies revealed that immersive learning of a second language increased neuroplasticity and white matter integrity in adult learners."

If you want to read the whole article https://medium.com/swlh/the-effects-of-second-language-acquisition-on-the-brain-c13778b45a

I'll end with a good quote: "language serves not only to express thoughts,but to make possible thoughts which could not exist without it" 1948 by philosopher Bertrand Russell.

October 3, 2019



Thank you for posting this, it's very interesting. I don't why it's receiving downvotes. Thank you for sharing - and some Lingots in appreciation. :)


I think it would be helpful (and more readable) to put the quoted parts in "quotes" so that people do not get the idea you wrote this all yourself (which would then look like plagiarism).

Here is a link to several formatting guides:

So you can edit the post to make the parts from the article look like this to set them apart from your own words:

The brain is made up of two types of tissues: gray matter and white matter. Gray matter contains the cell bodies of neurons whereas white matter refers to the axon bundles that connect different regions of gray matter to each other and carry nerve impulses between neurons. Gray matter density or volume is directly associated with general intelligence, memory, attention and language. White matter, on the other hand, governs the speed of information processing and memory recall and facilitates the travel of never impulses between neurons.

Thanks for sharing with us. :)


It looks nice too, Scutigera. Thanks for your comment. There are a few formatting techniques that are worthwhile to learn as they can help clarify meaning and give more impact to your posts. I recommend learning how to post in italics, in bold font, in those two combined, and to learn the quotation technique. These are all easy. It's also useful to be able to embed photos, but this is more complicated. Too bad you have to post them on imgur first.

Vita flumen est. Omnia mutantur, nihil interit.


Imgur is a great resource though (and sometimes a fun diversion – this is a recent one Iiked: https://imgur.com/gallery/h13KUkL). It is worth having. But imgur is not the only picture hosting resource.

Thanks jairapetyan, I appreciate your feedback. :)


Thanks for sharing the formatting guides. I edited the post ;-)


I probably should've done that, I didn't think of it at the time. Thanks!


What a fantastic repost!!! Thank you so much for taking the time to pass on this positive and encouraging information.


"What a fantastic repost!"

I can't help but wonder what caused the need for a repost?


For those looking for sources & rigorous evidence, the blog-post linked by the OP in medium.com has a number of scientific papers in the references.

This was a nice one: Cortical thickness and hippocampal volumes increased after 3 months of intense language studies. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1053811912006581?via%3Dihub


I am sorry people disliked your comment it must have took forever to type it.


Practicing speaking with other people seems to be a theme...

"...immersive learning of a second language increased neuroplasticity..."

"...The evidence uncovered suggests that learning and using multiple languages induces changes in brain anatomy including functional neural patterns..."

Duolingo helps us learn alas for interaction in our late acquired languages we must look elsewhere.


Three of the most valuable activities to help develop brain skills or to stay young in your older days are learning a new language, learning a new instrument or singing and learning new dance steps.

There are a lot of studies which show that all those three increase the neuroplasticity of the brain, no matter how old you are, and even can help to avoid getting some sort of dementia.

My father was at age 92 still doing his duolingo sessions every day and communicating with other learners. When the communication part (activity streams) were closed down he stop using Duolingo because communicating was part of the fun.

Specially learning a language and learning an instrument train the brain in a similiar way.


That's amazing that he was doing Duolingo at 92. Thanks for sharing!


Amazing. When I procrastinate my other responsibilities to learn language, I tend to feel guilty, but I can now find solace with the knowledge that I'm just prepping my brain to absorb all my other coursework more easily. Thanks for the fascinating article Jacob!


I started learning Spanish to combat brainfog i got when I quit smoking. Google told me it was the right thing to do. I have no practical need to know Spanish. But it does work. It kind of feels like going to the gym, just for the brain. I have also started with math after it was recommended and started playig ukulele. Math and playing an instrument is suppose to have the same benefits.

BTW, I play the ukulele with my spanish language partner.. :)


That's great! Thanks for sharing!


Now you just need to do math drills together in Spanish while playing the ukulele. :)


Thank you! I missed this the first time around, so I'm glad to have had an opportunity to read it. Absolutely fascinating.

I also read recently, somewhere out there on t'Interwebz, of a minor drawback to learning multiple languages - that of "top of the tongue" syndrome, when you can't quite remember the word you want to use. Apparently the more languages you learn the more frequently you are likely to experience this phenomenon, and the more likely you are to pick up the right word in the wrong language. I've certainly noticed this occasionally (speaking English, a bit of conversational French, and very basic Welsh), but it would explain a problem my grandma had in her last few years.

Grandma spoke four languages fluently, and could switch between them more or less at will. As she got older she would often grasp for a word and then eventually select the right word but in the wrong language. She would then continue merrily on in the other language, unaware of the switch, until she noticed the blank expressions on everyone's faces and realised what she had done.


Thanks for this very interesting information.


Fascinating! Thanks for posting. My brain thanks you.


Absolutely fascinating and very informative. Thank you for posting.


Thanks by your informations!


I just wonder if only studying languages has the consequences you are talking about. I don't think so. You can also train your brain by other things: math, music, drawing, chess and etc (even computer games). Languages have amazing results, but I think that not only they can change homo brain.


True! Math definitely has a written language of its own. Studying math involves learning to think logically and communicate in math notation. I have seen university programs that require study of a foreign language but will accept certain math courses in lieu of the foreign language courses.

(I teach math, and I see many parallels between what helps me learn Spanish and what I recommend my students do to learn algebra.)


True. Sometimes I do math in my second/third language to make it even more challenging.


GingerSquare - In case you haven't already, please check out a recent post by Judit294350 regarding combining ancient languages and mathematics. https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/34351211


Yes, I did see that. Very interesting! Thanks!


The human brain is a powerful tool. There's so much we don't know about it yet, but what we do know is quite fascinating. Thanks for this amazing post :)


Thanks for sharing! Both of my paternal grandparents have AD. I read similar articles regarding plasticity retention and using cognitive exercises as intervention in the early stages of the disease. I actually decided to start learning on DUO for this very reason. I do not have AD but figured it's never to early to exercise the mind!


Kia ora for the post (from Aotearoa New Zealand)


Thank you for this repost!


this is really cool. hope it works for me ;)


thank you for this. :)


JacobBarides - Thanks for posting this and opening up the dialogue regarding this topic. Ten lingots for you.


neuroplasticity is S E X Y. so is thinking. so is the alphabet. language rocks. thank you for your post (and the previous one i never saw). wishing you a happy day from the great state of mind called san francisco!

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