Language is one of the key elements which play a crucial role in achieving effective communication between individuals or even groups of people. Language is also inherent because it’s acquired through various means and ways. Language acquisition is the process by which humans acquire the capacity to perceive and comprehend language, as well as produce and use words and sentences to communicate. Acquiring language can therefore happen in an academic, social or even cultural setting. The ultimate human language capacity is represented in the brain; it is not surprising therefore that certain human beings have got enough brain capacity to acquire more languages beyond their first language.
The ability to use two languages especially with equal or nearly equal fluency is called bilingualism. Research has shown that human beings exposed to different languages become more aware of different cultures, other people and other points of view. From a fundamental perspective especially in relation to the brain, Bilinguals have a denser grey matter in their language centres than monolinguals. Bilinguals can easily focus on two tasks at once. They think more analytically with parts of their brain devoted to memory, reasoning and planning.
To a layman or average person on the street, learning a second language can be likened to a mental workout because while our brains have the ability to make sense of words instantaneously, the process of transforming sounds into meaning and then formulating a response goes through several areas of the brain. These different brain areas are the auditory cortex, wernickes area, brocas area and the motor cortex.
From the moment sound waves enter your ear and become neural impulses, your brain executes a rapid fire series of events which few people are aware of, but without which we’d be unable to communicate. For bilingual speakers, this process involves both languages, from the first syllable they hear, their brain is working to identify the word and the listeners’ brain begins identifying any words, in either language, that could fit the sounds as they arrive in sequence. Distinguishing two languages is not easy but the brains executive functions, especially the attention and inhibition processes, are strengthened through this process, ultimately making bilingual speakers better at switching between two tasks or handling tasks that require conflict management.
This process adds an additional dimension in that because the brain is flexible, learning a second language can develop new areas of the mind and strengthen the brains natural ability to focus, entertain multiple possibilities and process information.
Being bilingual is therefore something that human beings should pursue with vigour because what the gym positively does to the heart and body muscles is what a second language can do to a human brain and in the long run and medical perspective delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s.