What Does Learning a Language Do to the Brain? Our Top 5 Cognitive Improvements

It’s no secret that learning a new language is really tough, especially as we grow older, but it’s also great for your brain. What does it actually do to the organ? Researchers have been studying this question for years, and they’ve uncovered some pretty amazing things. In this article, we will explore some of the ways that learning a new language benefits your mind.

Structural Changes

One of the most awesome things that learning a new language does to your brain is that it actually changes its structure. That’s right – your brain will physically alter itself when you learn a new language. Studies have shown that people who know more than one language have increased grey matter in certain areas of their brains. This extra grey matter is associated with higher levels of cognitive function, which means that bilinguals are better at multitasking, problem-solving, and critical thinking than monolinguals

Improved Memory

In addition to changing the structure of your brain, learning a new language also improves your memory. This is because when you learn a new language, you have to remember a lot of new vocabulary. This extra vocabulary makes your brain better at storing and retrieving information.

Bilinguals have also been shown to have better working memory than monolinguals. This means that they can hold more information in their mind at once and manipulate it more effectively. A recent study found that people who knew a second language were better able to remember a list of words than those who only knew one language. The reason for this is that when you know more than one language, your brain has to work harder to retrieve the correct word. This extra effort helped to improve the participants’ memories.


Improved Attention

Studies have shown that bilingual people are better able to ignore irrelevant information and focus on the important things. They’re also better at switching between tasks and multitasking. Termed executive function, an improvement in this area allows people to control, direct and manage their attention. This stems from the need to switch between languages, cognitively managing their use of the correct words and phrases, depending on the language being spoken or written.


Evidence suggests that when people learn a new language, they often exhibit empathy for others, even developing more of a global mindset than they had before. Scientists and psychologists admit they don’t actually understand why this happens, but it may be linked to the feeling of ‘being a different person’, often reported when people speak their second language.

Increased Creativity

In many cases, learning a new language increases the creativity exhibited in the existing language. Improvements in fluidity, and originality, whilst using a wider range of vocabulary are seen in students learning second languages.

So, What Does All of This Mean For Your Brain?

Learning a new language can help to improve your cognitive abilities and memory – skills that are easily transferable into your daily life.

If you’re looking for a way to keep your mind sharp, learning a new language is a great option!