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Language learning boosts mental agility

Short-term language learning aids mental agility.

Published on Thu, Apr 28th 2016, 15:45

Mental agility can be boosted by even a short period of learning a language, suggests a new study by Bilingualism Matters researchers.

Students aged 18 – 78 were tested on their attention levels before and after a one-week intensive Gaelic course on the Isle of Skye. Researchers compared these results with those of people who completed a one week course that did not involve learning a new language, and with a group who did not complete any course.

I think there are three important messages from our study: firstly, it is never too late to start a novel mental activity such as learning a new language. Secondly, even a short intensive course can show beneficial effects on some cognitive functions. Thirdly, this effect can be maintained through practice.

Dr Thomas BakLead researcher

Researchers also found that these benefits could be maintained with regular practice. Nine months after the initial course, all those who had practised five hours or more per week improved from their baseline performance.

Dr Thomas Bak of the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences said the results confirm the cognitive benefits of language learning.

Further information

Short-term language learning aids mental agility - Blog post

Novelty, Challenge, and Practice: The Impact of Intensive Language Learning on Attentional Functions - PLOS ONE research journal article

Skye is the limit – or, the power of mad ideas - Dr Thomas Bak's blog about the study

Dr Thomas Bak