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To boost attention and other cognitive skills, learn AND continually practice a second language

language learningStudy: Short-term lan­guage learn­ing boosts cog­ni­tive agili­ty (UPI):

Stud­ies have shown learn­ing a sec­ond lan­guage can improve a vari­ety of cog­ni­tive functions…Scottish researchers found that stu­dents demon­strat­ed improved atten­tion abil­i­ties after just a week of lan­guage learn­ing…When researchers sur­veyed par­tic­i­pants nine months lat­er, they found those who had kept prac­tic­ing — at least five hours a week — con­tin­ued to score high­er on the tests mea­sur­ing atten­tion and con­cen­tra­tion…

I think there are three impor­tant mes­sages from our study: first­ly, it is nev­er too late to start a nov­el men­tal activ­i­ty such as learn­ing a new lan­guage,” lead researcher Thomas Bak said in a news release. “Sec­ond­ly, even a short inten­sive course can show ben­e­fi­cial effects on some cog­ni­tive func­tions. Third­ly, this effect can be main­tained through prac­tice.”

The study: Nov­el­ty, Chal­lenge, and Prac­tice: The Impact of Inten­sive Lan­guage Learn­ing on Atten­tion­al Func­tions (PLOS)

  • Abstract: We inves­ti­gat­ed the impact of a short inten­sive lan­guage course on atten­tion­al func­tions. We exam­ined 33 par­tic­i­pants of a one-week Scot­tish Gael­ic course and com­pared them to 34 con­trols: 16 active con­trols who par­tic­i­pat­ed in cours­es of com­pa­ra­ble dura­tion and inten­si­ty but not involv­ing for­eign lan­guage learn­ing and 18 pas­sive con­trols who fol­lowed their usu­al rou­tines. Par­tic­i­pants com­plet­ed audi­to­ry tests of atten­tion­al inhi­bi­tion and switch­ing. There was no dif­fer­ence between the groups in any mea­sures at the begin­ning of the course. At the end of the course, a sig­nif­i­cant improve­ment in atten­tion switch­ing was observed in the lan­guage group (p < .001) but not the con­trol group (p = .127), inde­pen­dent of the age of par­tic­i­pants (18–78 years). Half of the lan­guage par­tic­i­pants (n = 17) were retest­ed nine months after their course. All those who prac­ticed Gael­ic 5 hours or more per week improved from their base­line per­for­mance. In con­trast, those who prac­ticed 4 hours or few­er showed an incon­sis­tent pat­tern: some improved while oth­ers stayed the same or dete­ri­o­rat­ed. Our results sug­gest that even a short peri­od of inten­sive lan­guage learn­ing can mod­u­late atten­tion­al func­tions and that all age groups can ben­e­fit from this effect. More­over, these short-term effects can be main­tained through con­tin­u­ous prac­tice.

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Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Education & Lifelong Learning

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