Practicing a New Language Can Help Improve Your Memory

Did you know that learning a new language can actually make parts of your brain grow and improve your memory?

Many experts agree that one of the most important ways to keep your memory sharp is to engage in plenty of mental exercise. Making the decision to get better at remembering things can be honed and sharpened with a basic knowledge of memory-enhancing strategies, as well as the right lifestyle choices.

Whether it’s recalling the name of an acquaintance you just met, where you left you keys or where you parked your car, you can do something about it. And it’s as easy as focusing on brain-challenging activities and exercises.

Pretty much any activity that forces you to actively engage the brain, such as crossword puzzles, learning to play an instrument or speak a foreign language, can help improve overall brain function. Of course, the more interesting and enjoyable you find the activity, the more likely you’ll be to commit to it in the long-term.

Many of us dream of going to a foreign country and learning some of the local language so we can at least make conversation. But we don’t want to spend years doing it.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, new recruits at the Swedish Armed Forces Interpreter Academy who had no knowledge of complex languages such as Dari, Russian or Arabic, were able to speak it fluently after only 13 months. Each recruit’s brain was compared with current medicine and cognitive science students at the university. After a three-month period of intensive study, both groups were given MRI scans. The scan revealed the unchanged brain of the control group, while the brain of the language students grew in specific areas.

“We were surprised that different parts of the brain developed to different degrees depending on how well the students performed and how much effort they had to put in to keep up with the course,” said Johan Mårtensson, a doctoral student and researcher in psychology at the university.

Building new connections between brain cells has been proven to strengthen those that already exist. The more numerous and healthy the brain-cell connections, the better the mind and the memory will work. By measuring participants brains before and after the language training, researchers were able to observe what happens to our brains when we learn a new language in a short span of time.

“Even if we cannot compare three months of intensive language study with a lifetime of being bilingual, there is a lot to suggest that learning languages is a good way to keep the brain in shape,” said Mårtensson.

Three areas in the cerebral cortex, along with the hippocampus (the brain structure involved in learning spatial navigation and new material) grew, researchers reported. Students with the most growth in the hippocampus and various areas of the cerebral cortex had better language skills than other students.

Previous studies have also shown that Alzheimer’s disease has a later onset in bilingual or multilingual groups.

The good news is that pretty much anybody can learn a foreign language quickly. You just have to pick the right language, and the right learning technique. One of the easiest and best ways to learn a new language are to utilize programs such as Pimsleur. The Pimsleur Approach teaches you the core vocabulary of your language of choice, which helps you learn to speak it in the least amount of time.

Each lesson is scientifically sequenced to quickly lock the material into your brain after just one listen. Pimsleur’s line of attack is so powerful, even the FBI has purchased it. With a 100 percent guarantee, if you don’t start learning to speak a foreign language in 10 days — it’s free.

Try spending a little time each day practicing a new language, and before you know it you’ll be remembering those important things 28 percent more often. Your brain is ready. You just have to train it right.

Au revoir, forgetfulness!