Archive for December, 2015

Want To Become Smarter? Enroll In Language Classes

Ever seen the classic movie Witness for the Prosecution? Let me quote a dialogue from it between Sir Wilfred Roberts, the defense lawyer and Leonard Vole, the murder accused.

Roberts: Mr. Vole I must tell you I’m not putting her (Mrs. Vole) in the witness box.

Vole: You’re not? Why not?

Roberts: Well one thing she’s a foreigner, not too familiar with the subtleties of our language. The prosecution could easily trip her up.

Even if one is not in the position of Mr. Vole and one’s life does not depend on it, the above quote still demonstrates the importance of language and language classes. If you don’t know a language properly and have to interact with the people who speak it, you’re going to have a hard time and will often be misunderstood.

There are many advantages in learning a second language. Below I describe one such benefit which was published in The New York Times.

A study by the psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin-Rhee found that bilinguals – people who know two languages – are more efficient than monolinguals – people who know only a single language – at solving certain kinds of mental puzzles.

In the study bilingual and monolingual preschool children were presented with red squares and blue circles on a computer screen. They were then asked to sort them into two digital bins, one of them was marked with a blue square and the other was marked with a red circle.

Yes the colors and shapes of the markings on the bins were deliberately reversed.

In the first task, the kids were told to sort the shapes by color i.e. they were supposed to place the blue circles in the bin marked with the blue square and the red squares in the bin marked with the red circle.

Despite the fact they had to put squares in a circle and circles in a square, both groups of children did this quite easily.

But the difference between their thinking showed up in the next task which shows a crucial point for language classes.

Now the children were asked to sort by shape, which was a little more difficult because it required placing the figures in a bin marked with an opposite color.

The study found that the bilinguals performed the task quicker than the monolinguals!

In fact many other studies only confirm such findings. They suggest that learning a different language improves the brain’s command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems, and performing various other mentally demanding tasks.

Have you learned more than one language? Do you feel it made you more intelligent? Drop in a comment below.