Studying a new language can be tiring, and if you’re studying abroad and immersing yourself in a new language and culture, your days can be exhausting. I studied in Spain. I remember my first day listening to and speaking in Spanish, with no English breaks. I walked home that evening and my brain felt like a bowl of mashed potatoes. While learning a new language can be exhausting, it is one of the best things we can do for the health of our brains, not matter the age. Learning new things strengthens our brains, and the more you learn, the stronger and more connected the parts of your brain will become.
Studies have shown that learning a second language has a visible effect on the brain. Using tools such as MRI scans, scientists see what’s happening in our brains as we hear, speak, and learn a new language. Understanding a new language requires us to rewire parts of our brain’s circuitry, and the structure and function of our brains change as a result. Specific parts of our brains can physically grow larger with language acquisition: the hippocampus (long-term memory), and the middle frontal gyrus, inferior frontal gyrus, and superior temporal gyrus, which are part of the cerebral cortex (thinking, processing information from the five senses). In addition, studies have shown that people who speak more than one language can recall memories faster and more accurately than people who speak only one language.
So if you’re feeling extra tired after a long day of language learning, remember that your brain is putting in the hard work now, and it will benefit you in the long run.