How Does Language Change Your Brain

Hey everyone, thanks for tuning into **** today, I’m Trace. This is a show where we take

Hey everyone, thanks for tuning into **** today, I’m Trace. This is a show where we take

a big topic and we break it down into a bunch of different pieces we all get a little bit

better, this is episode 205 on language and today we’re gonna talk about how language

makes your brain a little bit bigger. Literally it does that. When you have a new language

in your brain, you brain has to essentially grow in size, it has to make more connection,

it has to learn how to do this whole new thing. A Swedish Arm Forces Interpreter Academy has

a study where students were tasked with learning a language at very fast rate. RMI cans are

showing that specific parts of the brain were developing in size, they were getting bigger,

just because they were learning a language, another group was tasked with learning something

else. You guys learn this, their brain structure didn’t change in size at all. So learning

a language is really great for your brain for a number of different reasons. It also

significantly improves cognitive functions when you pick up a new language. A study found

that young adults proficient in two languages performed better on attention tasks; had better

concentration, as well than those who spoke only one language. This is a study published

in the Journal Frontier in Psychology. There is also a landmark study in the Annals of

Neurology by the American Neurological Association. This was a longitudinal study. So what they

did is over time. They scanned kids’ brains, and then came back decades later and scanned

their brains again, and they found better cognitive function at an older age when they

learned a second language at an earlier age. So if they learned a language when they were

young, they had better cognitive function when they were older. It actually slowed down

brain aging and hold off Alzheimer’s in these people for more than 4.5 years or approximately

that. Cognitive functions were not hindered and in fact their brains are healthier as

adults because they learned a second language as a kid. That great. Being bilingual or trilingual

or more is really awesome for your brain. So what happens in your brain when you hear

a word is that the sound is arriving in sequential orders, so your brain starts to populate what

the rest of the word is, here is it, sort of like google-auto-complete, you start typing,

and you are getting things, and it’s trying to figure out what you are typing, it’s

the same thing. Your brain does that too. So if I were trying to say the word: canister,

your brain hears can, and your brain, just now when I said that, started putting words

together inside itself. It’s like: can— Canada, cannot, cannery, cannabis, candle,

canonical, canoe, it’s like I’m trying to figure this out, of course that’s just

English words, when you are bilingual, it’s also gonna includes words from your second

language, and if your trilingual, third language. It’s gonna try all these different combinations,

that’s a lot of processing, requires a lot of effort. The thing is though, they are going

to make you think language was determining what you are thinking, which isn’t really

true at all, although, it’s still debated. One of our writers here came up with a quote

based on a number of other different ideas which is: culture could be shaped through

the prism of language, which I really like. Nice one, Jules. According to Roman Jacobson,

a world-renowned linguist, languages differ essentially in what they must convey, not

in what they may convey. So language doesn’t determine that you think, but it can determine

how you think about things. So the word “fork” in French is a feminine word, in Spanish it’s

a masculine word, many Latin based languages have masculine and feminine words, so, the

word *** in Spanish means beach, and it’s a feminine word because it ends in A, if it

ended in O, it would be a masculine word. So what they did in the study is they ask

people to say a word, like the word, fork, in a cartoon voice, the participants in French

made a high-pitched voice, because that word is feminine, in Spanish, they made a masculine

grunting voice, because that word is masculine. It’s the same word, it’s a fork, it’s

just a thing, but we ascribe ideas to it based on our own language, right? Our language determines,

it’s the prism in which we see the world. An interesting way to look at it. Another

example might be in some indigenous tribes will say: north, south, east, west, rather

than saying left or right. So when we are walking down the street you ask somebody where

to go, they’ll say: oh, go down there and turn right. Some people, en, in English, but

also some tribes, would just say: go down there and turn east. Now depending on which

way you’re face, east will never gonna change, but right will, and there is the consequence

that people in these tribes have usually better spacial orientation, because they already

understand where they’re facing. Russian speakers who have more words for light and

dark blue are better able to visually discriminate shades of blue, and that also works in English,

think about this way: designers, or people who work in fashion, people who work in color,

are better at describing color and some theories suggest that they actually see, physically

see more color, than people who don’t have words for them. if you see three different

pinks in a row, and some people say: that’s pink, that’s magenta, that’s fuchsin.

Some people would just say: pink, and that’s also pink, it’s like a different pink, and

that’s a different pink, they may physically remember those things later as just one shade

of pink, because that’s how their language has just changed their perception. English

is a Germanic language, which makes languages like Scandinavian and Dutch easier to learn,

and it’s also Latin-based, which make French, and Italian and Spanish, easier to learn.

The thing is, there is no origin sharing with Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Arabic; and

that make them very difficult to learn. The easiest language to learn when you are an

English speaker according to the foreign service institute comes in various categories. So

Category 1 takes about 23-24 weeks, or about 600 hours at most, and you can learn: Afrikaans,

Danish Dutch French Italian… Latin based languages, especially easy, because English

also based there. Category 2 takes about 30 weeks, 750 hours, that’s German, completely

different pronunciations and things, lots of different words, much more complicated.

Category 3, 37 weeks, about 900 hours, you can get Indonesian, Malaysian, Swahili, getting

more and more complicated, and less and less similar to your native language. Again, this

is for English speakers. Category 4, is 44 weeks, or about 1100 hours, you get Thai,

Albanian, Vietnamese, Russian. Category 5 is 2200 hours, and that’s Arabic, Mandarin,

Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, and these are languages just like English except they are

not at all like English. Some of these languages have basis in ideograms, instead of, you know,

vocabulary construction in the way that English does, and on top of that, mandarin has, as

very famously, has tones. That is to say it’s got a variety of different tonal levels you

have to speak in, and different tones mean different things. There’s also something

else when you get to things like Mandarin, we have tonal languages. Languages where if

I say, hi versus hi, those can be two very different meanings. And this is why Chinese

and the similar languages are very difficult for English speakers, we are not used to speak

in tones, and science does say though, interestingly, that tonal language speakers have distinct

advantages when they are learning to play or at least understand musical instruments.

Because a Plus1 study looked at Cantonese speakers who had no musical training, they

possessed pitch and tone understanding similar to trained musicians as opposed to English

speakers with no tone base. You can understand it as easily. So languages are good for your

brain, and we can all agree. Do you know any other languages, how many do you know. Let

us down on the comments, make sure you subscribe ****, come back tomorrow, we are gonna talk

a little bit about how language evolves and also how they sometimes die. If you want to

see that, make sure you subscribe.


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