How to slow down your brain’s decline through language

So, our title may sound a little depressing, but we have great news for you! It involves a wonderful adventure of discovery and learning. And it’s the answer to one of life’s little problems: our brains beginning their decline from the age of 27 onwards. This sad fact is often followed by cognitive issues we didn’t have as youngsters.

For instance, you go into the study to fetch… what? You can’t remember what it was you wanted in that room. It’s on the tip of your tongue, like a word lost at sea, but you can’t retrieve it. I joke about it as “random access memory” (referring to RAM, a computer science term). As in, your brain is trying to access a specific memory but doing it randomly. It’s funny because computers are less prone to memory issues.

It gets worse, sorry to say

In our decline in cognitive functioning, we may inevitably hit senility. Or even worse, dementia. It’s a scary thought; after all, without our brains, what are we? It’s our personality, our being, and how we exist in the world. And, even worse, when the decline does lead to dementia, our lives become scary. With a constant feeling of disorientation, not knowing what is going on, and the familiar becoming alien and frightening.

But there is hope

The inevitable decline doesn’t have to be so catastrophic. In fact, it can be barely an inconvenience, just annoying daily issues like, “where the heck did I leave my keys?”. How so? Well, the brain is like a muscle in many ways (though it is an organ, of course). It needs exercise to maintain its strength.

And strength, in this case, is mental sharpness, decent short-term memory, and vital maintenance of long-term memory.

This is where mental exercises come in. We know that games like crosswords, chess, or even a daily Wordle challenge are great for the brain. If this is you, well done — activities like these are an excellent way of mental stimulation. But what is the best, most potent brain exercise there is?

It’s pretty simple. Learning a new language. While this might sound daunting, think of the benefits. When you learn a new language, especially if you are a monolinguistic person (only know one language), you’re developing an incredible new way of thinking and operating.

A new operating system

Think of it this way. You have a computer or a smartphone (otherwise, how are you reading this article?). That device comes with an operating system. If you’re like most people, it’s Windows OS (operating system). Or, if you’re in the significant minority, it’s macOS (what runs Apple computers). Or Android (for most smartphones) or iOS (for iPhones).

They’re entirely different architectural structures, operating. You’ll notice this if you switch from one to the other. Sometimes, it takes getting used to. Most people have their favorites and stick with them.

What’s the point of this extended metaphor? Well, languages are like operating systems. There’s so much intricacy that goes into a language. From the differences in its alphabet to the meaning of its words and phraseology. This is why it can be difficult sometimes to translate a book accurately from one language to another without losing something. Think of the “lost in translation” expression. This is because the languages being translated are intrinsically different. They’re their own “operating system”.

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Required field
Required field

Our cognitive functions require an operating system

How would you be able to think at all if you didn’t know English? Or Spanish, or Russian, or whatever your mother tongue happens to be? The intricacies of language make up the fundamentals of thought.

So, when you learn a new language, essentially, you’re getting an entirely new operating system alongside your current OS. If you’re an English speaker and you learn Hebrew, suddenly you have two completely different ways of thinking — or of operating your thinking process. Think things like how expressions, idioms, and nuances of words or phrases can have layered meaning attached to them. Unique to the cultural group that spawned the language.

You’re doing the ultimate brain stimulation exercise by learning a new language. You’re doing the brain equivalent of a triathlon: reading, writing and speaking a new language. That might sound overwhelming and more effort than it’s worth — until you remember that dementia may result from not putting in the effort.

How learning a new language is easier than getting your sweatpants… sweaty.

But in reality, the “triathlon” can be a lot easier than it sounds. Especially when you learn a new language through a live, online school with teachers dedicated to helping their students go from mastering the basics to basically being masters of linguistics. By registering with an online school, you have the tools, virtual classroom environment, and teaching expertise to make learning a new language an adventure.

It’s the best of both worlds: you have fun in the comfort of your own home while intensely stimulating your brain. You are making new neurological connections, new friends, and new ways of thinking. Which includes incredible problem-solving abilities, improved brain health, increased mental acuity, and an extreme “applying of the brakes” on cognitive decline. Besides, think of the fun it will be to suddenly surprise people with your newfound skills.

Personally, whatever your first language is, we recommend Hebrew as a second because it is such a different construct from many European and Asian languages. It’s got the required complexity; it’s a language with much depth. It will make visiting Israel a lovely, engaging experience if you’re so inclined.

Fortunately, we offer the perfect online learning environment in which to learn. From beginner to intermediate to expert, our courses are a great addition to your week, something you can look forward to once every seven days for about nine months.

Do your brain, which is essentially you, a huge favor, and enroll in one of our courses today. We make learning a new language fun, stimulating, entertaining, and engaging. After all, it’s the best way to get your brain an operating software upgrade.

About the author

Anthony FreelanderAnthony Freelander is a lifelong student of linguistics and history. His interest in Hebrew stems from a deep-rooted connection to it and its speakers. He’s been writing professionally since 2005.

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