For cognitive reasons, it is often easier for children to learn a foreign language than for adults. It is generally on this scientific argument that the desire to teach a second language is based from an early age. The results of a recent study indicate that the benefits of learning a new language on the brain are significant, for both children and adults.
According to several scientific studies in linguistics and neurology, it would be desirable to learn a foreign language as early as possible in one's life, preferably from an early age. The malleability of children's brains would facilitate this learning and have positive impacts on cognitions. However, a study carried out under the direction of Ping li, professor in the psychology department of the Pennsylvania State University, indicates that learning a new language also has important positive effects in adults.
Li and his team recruited participants with English as their mother tongue. The participants were divided into two groups, one of which was to learn Chinese vocabulary. The two groups were followed for a period of six weeks. The brain activity of the participants was measured and studied using magnetic resonance imaging. The work was led by the Brain, Language, and Computation Lab.
The results show that, overall, the participants in the group of people who learned Chinese had higher brain activity than those in the other group. The activity was measured by focusing in particular on neuronal changes. The study also shows that the participants who performed best in learning Chinese were those who initially had more neuronal activity.
For Li and her team, this shows that positive anatomical changes can result from learning a new language, regardless of the age of the learners. While this confirms the positive effects of learning a foreign language at a young age, it also indicates the relevance of continuing the process into adulthood. According to Li, the brain has significant plasticity even in adulthood.
In light of the study, it is therefore never too late to learn a second language, or even a third!