We think it's too late. Our brain is too tired, too cluttered, too dusty to embark on such an adventure ... We leave that to our grandchildren who truffle their sentences Anglicisms. We are wrong. It's never too late to learn new language skills. It is science that says it. In the 2000s, Swedish researchers followed young and old adults in their learning for 180 days. The results of their work, published in 2010, showed identical brain plasticity in both age groups when there was cognitive stimulation. Better: they also observed that disruptions in the interhemispheric connectivity of older subjects decreased as they improved their knowledge. In other words, if your head is rowing, it's because you leave it in sleep mode permanently. If you face the work of memorization, understanding and analysis that requires the acquisition of a language, it will not be long to regain the plasticity of its 20 years! And more.
Think better, it's not Chinese!
A French or a Norwegian would think better in Arabic or Chinese (and vice versa) ... This is the conclusion advanced by recent research. Indeed, to cogitate in a non-native language would lead to making more thoughtful decisions, less dictated by our emotions. "The main reason for this phenomenon may be due to the fact that a second language has less affective resonance than the mother tongue "says researcher Sayuri Hayakawa, co-author of a study by the University of Chicago. "It makes you think twice and promotes deliberative reasoning"says psychology professor Albert Costa from the University of Barcelona. His works have shown that to formulate a thought by means of a foreign syntax and vocabulary makes it possible to develop a freer reflection (less impeded by morality, fear, doubt ...) and more oriented towards pragmatism and efficiency. In addition, according to a study from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine published in the Journal of Neuroscience in 2013, older adults who are bilingual would have better cognitive flexibility, that is, greater ability to cope with unexpected events. adapt to new situations. Brain imaging also showed that the cerebral region of the frontal cortex used less energy than monolingual elderly people.
More vocabulary for less intolerance
We know that studying a foreign language is an invitation to travel. What is more natural than wanting to immerse yourself in the country where it is spoken. However, the American linguist Amy Thompson, a professor at South Florida University, goes further: she says that the acquisition of language skills improves our tolerance. We open ourselves to other cultures and other ways of conceiving the world. We go beyond our societal stereotypes and our thought automatisms. As a result, new concepts are integrated and one develops one's ability to grasp unusual situations. Citing the work of field linguists Jean-Marc Dewaele and Li Wei, it evokes a greater "tolerance of ambiguity": a provision that allows us to leave our comfort zone, to show us curious, to initiate Unexpected encounters ... In short, a snowball effect that makes the more skills you develop in one language, the more you can assimilate a new one.
No blah blah, results ... on the brain!
Like the rest of our body, our brain is aging. However, research in neurology is unanimous: regular intellectual activity can slow the decline of brain mass. A Japanese study of students who were taught English revealed an increase in the density of gray matter and white matter in the right lower frontal gyrus! The same examination, reiterated a year later, revealed that the gray matter density had returned to its initial level among those who had stopped learning but had continued to increase among those who had continued their efforts.
Similarly, in 2014, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania demonstrated, through MRI, the improvement of neuronal connections by learning Chinese, regardless of the age at which one begins . "The brain would be much more malleable than we thought," said Ping Li, a professor of psychology and linguistics, who co-authored the study, "and we are even recording anatomical changes in the elderly, which is very encouraging."
An enjoyable learning
It may seem paradoxical but from a neurological point of view, learning Greek, Swedish (or any other idiom) is associated with pleasure. In a study published in Current Biology36 adults participated in tests during which they had to memorize new words. An MRI showed that this exercise activated the same region of the brain as the sexual relations, the ventral striatum, the center of the reward! According to the team of researchers, this phenomenon originated in our very early childhood, as we begin to express ourselves in emotional interaction with his parents. "From the point of view of evolution, we can emit the theory that this type of mechanism could help the man to develop the language", comments Antoni Rodriguez Fornells, co-author of the study.
Words against evils
Better: the regular practice of a second idiom could roll back the appearance of the first signs of dementia. This is the conclusion of a Canadian study led by Professor Ellen Bialystok of York University in Toronto in the 2000s: bilingualism would delay the first symptoms of Alzheimer's disease by four to five years. Of the 450 patients who were interviewed, some had spoken in two languages for most of their lives: they had a cognitive reserve that allowed them to resist the disease for a longer period of time.
And when we know that according to a survey (of the Babbel language learning application) conducted in Canada always, the mastery of a second language seems to make a person more attractive and sexy, we say that he It is high time to abandon the language of Molière to (re) discover that of Goethe, Shakespeare or Pirandello. All your dicos!