News & events

22 Mar 2017

Learn a language and keep your brain fit

Mental Health Ireland’s CEO Martin Rogan is quoted extensively in this Irish Times article about the benefits of learning a new language.

Use it or lose it

The need to keep the brain active is something we are all aware of. “Use it or lose it” may just seem like a catchy line, but it holds a lot of truth, and Martin Rogan, chief executive of Mental Health Ireland explains why exercising the brain is as important as keeping the body fit.

“It was thought as we got older our brain networks didn’t progress but in the past two decades research has revealed that the brain never stops growing new connections,” he says. “Neuroplasticity is the capacity of the brain to change with learning, so to learn a second language, or any new skill, is literally changing the internal structures and connectivity within the brain.

“One of the five ways to wellbeing is to keep learning and it is included for very good reason. The learning process will keep neurons firing, which assists in boosting memory, improving attention and has the potential to assist in staving off dementia.”

As well as keeping our brains active, Rogan says that because learning a new language is not a solo pursuit, it’s an ideal opportunity for engagement, making new friends, having new experiences with others, reaching a goal and having hope for the future.

“The skill of learning a new language is not only open to the very young, and research has shown that the over-55s show the highest success rate in succeeding to learn another language, due to their life experience of learning,” he says. “To learn a new language is a hopeful and positive sign of looking into the future and signals that the person is progressive and feels ready to take on a challenge.

“Mental health includes our relationship with ourselves and the internal dialogue that supports us. We know there are many concepts, feelings and constructs that are better articulated in some languages so having a second language can help us to formulate new ideas and express ourselves more completely.

“To learn a new skill, including a new language, is a great self-esteem boost. You have set your mind to something and succeeded. The personal rewards for this experience are huge and it demonstrates to us just how powerful our minds are.”

See the full article here.

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Recent News & events / Archive