5 Facts about Language Learning Backed by Science

5 facts about language learning backed by science

What I tend to do on this blog is share with you some of the tips and techniques that have worked for me and helped me learn foreign languages effectively.

They’re my tips and my opinions, though. And what works for me, won’t always work for everyone else.

So, I thought it would be interesting to look into what science has to say about language learning.

Here are five fun facts about language learning backed by science!

1. Spaced repetition really works

Spaced repetition is a language learning technique that helps you keep the words you learn fresh in your memory. You learn them once, then you take a break, then you study them again, take a break again, and so on and so on. You increase the breaks as you go along to stretch your brain when recalling the words.

There are a number of studies (like this one) into the benefits of spaced repetition and they seem to agree that spacing out your learning can help you learn more effectively.

Check out my video on how to learn vocabulary effectively for more details.

2. Mnemonics really works as well

Mnemonics is a memorisation technique that doesn’t just help you remember new words but it also helps you recall them when you need them during a conversation.

I’ve written about it on this blog, made a video about it, and I’ve used it extensively for learning languages (especially Japanese because mnemonics is a great technique for memorising words which are very unfamiliar).

Research suggests that mnemonics is indeed an effective technique for recalling what you’ve memorised. Check out this study, for example.

3. Adults can learn languages successfully at any age

Research suggests that learning a language becomes more challenging as we age.

However, it seems that this change is not biological but rather perceptual. This means that with the right kind of approach, adults can learn languages as effectively as children.

And it’s definitely not the case that learning a language later in life is impossible! Indeed, adults can be better learners than children in some respects. They’re better at reflecting on their learning, understanding their own strengths and weaknesses, and learning in a structured and productive way.

4. Bilinguals have more grey matter than monolinguals

A 2015 study suggests that people who speak two languages have more grey matter in parts of the brain than those who just speak one language.

The study also showed that there was no evidence of more grey matter in people who were bilingual in one spoken language and a sign language. I thought that was interesting!

5. Learning a language improves cognition later in life

There has been various pieces of research (see this, this and this) that suggest that learning a language can delay the onset of dementia and improve general cognition later in life.

Another interesting point that’s come up is that because learning a language later in life may be more challenging than when you’re young, it’s actually good for your brain because it exercises it more.

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