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18 Awesome Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language That’ll Blow Your Mind!

by Michele
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Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language - Increase the volume of your brain
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From boosting your brainpower to improving your memory, here are awesome and unexpected benefits of learning a foreign language that you didn’t know about!

Nowadays, it seems like everyone is learning a foreign language, or at least seriously considering it. Whether you need it for work, study, or to enrich your travel experiences, there are many reasons why you should learn a foreign language 

Language learning apps and online language schools are more popular now than ever and make learning a new language even easier and more accessible than before. Whether you’ve got a busy schedule and a full-time job, there are plenty of ways to seamlessly integrate language learning into your life, including learning a language from home or going on a language holiday. But are the benefits of learning a second language really that great?

Absolutely, YES! In fact, they are even greater than you may think! Learning a foreign language not only allows you to potentially have a better career or study abroad, it is also extremely beneficial for your mental health, cognitive abilities and it improves the overall quality of your life. But that’s just the beginning!

Let’s take a look at some of the other unknown and ‘hidden’ advantages and health benefits of learning a foreign language that you probably didn’t know about!

Learning a second language helps you to…

1. Increase your self-confidence and happiness

Expanding our skills and working towards something that we can achieve makes us happy; learning a foreign language included. Researchers at the University of Cambridge have conducted a review of multiple studies that has shown clear evidence that learning as an adult increases self-esteem and self-efficacy. 

Another study conducted by the Institute for Employment Studies has shown that 80 percent of learners between the ages of 50 and 71 have noticed a positive impact on at least one of these: their enjoyment of life, their self-confidence, how they felt about themselves, their happiness in other areas of life and their ability to cope with daily problems.

2. Be a better decision maker

One of the hidden benefits of learning a second language is its positive influence on decision making. A study done by the University of Chicago has demonstrated that people tend to make better decisions when thinking in a foreign language. 

You may not know it, but there are nuances and subtle implications in the vocabulary of any language, and they create biases that can cloud your judgment without you even knowing it. Being able to think things over in a foreign language reduces emotional response and various biases. You can think more clearly and make better, more confident decisions. 

3. Improve your memory

Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language - Offset dementia and AlzheimersMany believe that to learn a second language, you need a good memory. But learning a second language actually improves your memory: you only need to start! The more you learn, the more your memory will improve. 

Multiple studies, including this study, have shown that bilingual children perform better at tasks involving memorisation and have a better working memory – the kind of memory that allows us to store and process information short-term, usually while performing a task. 

4. Increase your attention span

Another hidden benefit of learning  a foreign language is that bilingual people tend to have better attention spans than monolinguals. This not only makes them better listeners; it helps to concentrate better on any activity the person is performing – reading, studying, or even spending quality time with their loved ones. 

This happens because bilingual people often have to switch between different languages and evaluate which language is appropriate for which situation. This gives the brain plenty of practice in focusing and filtering information. (Source

5. Improve your ability to multitask

Among the benefits of learning a second language, is improved multitasking ability: the ability to perform multiple tasks at the same time. Multitasking is a great way to save time, but it can also result in errors and poorly performed tasks when you can’t concentrate well enough on any of the tasks or don’t switch fast enough between tasks. Learning a foreign language can help with that, too!

Studies have shown that bilinguals have a better working memory (source). This is because they are also used to ‘juggling’ two or more languages at the same time (source) which involves switching from one language to another, prioritising, editing out irrelevant information. This allows bilingual people to be more effective at performing several tasks at the same time. 

6. Increase your perceptual sensitivity

Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language - Improve your ability to multitaskAs already mentioned above, bilingual and multilingual people have better memories. They are also better at filtering and prioritising information, editing out what’s irrelevant and concentrating on what’s important. This makes them more perceptive and better observers of their surroundings. 

This also results in multilingual people being able to spot misleading and deceptive information much easier. If you are aspiring to be a famous detective, then learning at least one foreign language is an absolute must!

7.  You’ll have better cognitive abilities

In addition to improved memory, attention span, and the ability to focus, learning a foreign language improves your overall cognitive abilities. Simply put, it makes you smarter!

Learning to speak another language challenges your brain to recognise and negotiate meaning, and communicate in a different language system. As a result, it boosts your ability to negotiate meaning in other problem-solving tasks as well.

This study conducted by the University of Edinburgh has shown that bilingual people tend to score better on a number of standardised tests involving reading, maths, vocabulary, and other aspects. This helps bilingual people, among other things, to study other subjects more effectively.

8. Improve your first language (mother-tongue)

Another one of the less obvious benefits of learning a second language is that it develops your mother-tongue skills. The explanation is quite simple: when learning a foreign language, you spend a lot of time concentrating on grammar, conjugations, sentence structure, and other aspects of the language. 

We usually don’t pay much attention to grammar and language structure in our native language, but learning a foreign language provides more focus on grammar in general. We also regularly draw parallels between our mother-tongue and the foreign language. As a result, you will gain a better understanding of how your native language works, and become a better communicator. (Source

9. Increase the volume of your brain

Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language - Improved Memory and Cognitive AbilitiesStudies have shown that learning a foreign language increases the volume and density of grey matter in your brain. You read that right!

The brain, or rather, the grey matter, is made up of cells called neurons, and connections between them, dendrites. Bilingualism makes the grey matter denser, which means more cells and connections between them, which ultimately means a healthier brain. 

Bilingualism also has a positive effect on white matter (source), which allows messages in the brain to travel fast and effectively. 

10. Delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s 

Probably, one of the most advantageous benefits of learning a second language is its effect on brain ageing. Multiple studies (found here, here, here, and here) have shown that speaking a foreign language slows down the ageing of the brain and delays the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. 

In a way, learning a foreign language works for your brain the same way exercising works for your body: it helps keep the brain healthy and fit much longer. As studies have shown, it staves off dementia and Alzheimer’s on average by 4-5 years! 

Interestingly, you don’t need to start learning a second language at an early age: people who become bilingual as an adult experience the same benefits. So, it’s never too late to start!

11. Faster stroke recovery

Among other things, bilingualism can help with stroke recovery. A study by the University of Edinburgh has revealed that stroke patients are more likely to regain their cognitive functions if they speak more than one language. 

This may be due to the fact that bilingual people constantly switch from one language to the other, which results in constant brain training. As mentioned earlier, learning a foreign language increases the number of grey matter cells, improving the overall health of the brain. This can also be a factor in helping stroke patients recover.

12. Delay the ageing process

Another way being bilingual can help your adult brain is by protecting it against ageing. There has been a lot of research (found here, here and here) studying the effects of bilingualism on brain ageing, and all studies seem to come to a general consensus that being able to speak a foreign language slows down the ageing process. 

Is speaking more foreign languages in this case better than one? It may be. A study by the American Academy of Neurology has shown that the more languages people know, the less likely they are to experience memory loss and cognitive decline.

13. Perform better in mathematics

Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language - Perform better at mathematicsThis is probably one of the more unexpected benefits of learning a second language. Language and mathematics seem to be rather different subjects, yet, studies show that bilinguals perform better in various mathematical tests than monolinguals. 

This is likely due to some of the other benefits of language learning mentioned above: improved memory, increased focus and concentration, better perception and observation, improved general cognitive ability. 

14. Improve your creativity

Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language - Improve your creativityCreativity is not magic. It involves such skills as memory, perception, multitasking, decision-making, all of which are greatly improved by learning a second language. Being bilingual also improves your innovative thinking: partly, simply through exposing you to new vocabulary, concepts, and a whole new culture. 

Studies show that due to their enhanced executive thinking and exposure to other cultures, bilinguals outperform monolinguals on various creativity tasks.  

15. Fine-tune your hearing

Through exposing you to the sounds of another language, as well as improving your overall attention span and perception, learning a foreign language fine-tunes your hearing. 

A study by Northwestern University has shown that bilinguals perform significantly better than monolinguals in situations where a lot of background noise was present. This is due to the fact that bilinguals are used to ‘juggling’ linguistic input and separating the relevant from the irrelevant. 

16. You’ll understand other cultures better

All languages are strongly connected with the culture (or cultures) of the people who speak it. By learning a foreign language, you will inevitably be exposed to new concepts, different logic and ways of thinking, and a new culture. Through this exposure and comparison, you ultimately get a better understanding of foreign cultures as well as your own. 

Bilingual education has been shown to help students understand the importance of their own language and culture while providing a better understanding of cultures in general. 

17. You’ll have better travel experiences 

Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language - Better travel experiencesOn the one hand, it is not always necessary to learn a foreign language to be able to travel: many people in the hospitality industry speak English, and gestures can really go a long way sometimes. However, if you speak even a little of the local language, you can significantly improve your travel experiences.  

You will be able to meet more people and make new friends among the locals, have more meaningful conversations and interactions, get local recommendations and visit places that are off the beaten tourist path. It is highly likely that people will be more willing to help you and be nicer when you speak or at least try to speak the local language. Planning a trip? Get out my free travel phrase guides here, learn how to be ‘travel fluent’ or check out my travel language courses here.

18. You’ll make more friends and improve your social life

Not all benefits of learning a second language are related to brain health and cognitive abilities – there are great social benefits too. Not only do you enjoy better travel experiences as described above, but learning a foreign language allows you to have a better social life and make more friends. 

Social connections are important for our health and happiness. Learning a foreign language not only allows you to meet new interesting people that wouldn’t have otherwise met, it also increases your overall social sensitivity which has a positive influence on your social life.


Learning a second, third or even a fourth language is a no-brainer! It’s great for your mind, body and soul. To quickly recap, some of the benefits of learning a second language are fairly obvious: if you learn a foreign language you can work or study abroad – or read your favourite authors and watch your favourite movies in original. 

But it’s these lesser-known and less measurable benefits that put a cherry on top of this always amazing language sundae. Without even realising it, when you learn a foreign language you’re actually making your brain healthier, improving your cognitive abilities and social life. You don’t need to be fluent to benefit from these welcome side effects either. Any language learning you do is a wonderful investment into your overall happiness and well-being. 

So, what are you waiting for? Start learning a language today! Here are my top tips on how to learn a language when you have a full time job and 13 ways to seamlessly integrate language learning into your daily life.

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18 Unexpected Advantages & Health Benefits of Learning A Foreign Language

Over to you!

Which one of these health benefits are you most excited about? Do any of them surprise you?
Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media to start a conversation.

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