What would it normally take to learn a new language? Hours of study? A one-on-one language tutor? It seems that the answer could be exercise. A new study has looked at the way a person learns a language and what processes can help us learn better as adults. The results may be surprising, but they offer an excellent insight into how the brain works while learning a language.

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Combining language learning and exercise

PLOS One recently published a study which found that exercising while learning a second language could help boost retention in comparison to a more ‘static’ situation. Researchers used a sample of 40 Chinese men and women who had basic experience of the language but would not class themselves as proficient.

The group was divided into two sub-groups – one which continued to learn English using their existing setting, while the other exercise by riding a stationary bike before and during their lessons. Each group was shown 40 words on a screen to memorize and repeat, before being tested on their new words. The students took eight classes in total over the course of two months.

The results of the tests showed that the group learning while on the exercise bikes performed better, while a final test at the end of the two months showed that this group retained a better memory of the words as well as a better understanding of using them in sentences.These results showed that exercise not only benefited in the memorization of new words but also a better understanding of how the words are used. While the research can’t explain why exercise helps the brain in this way, it could offer a new way for people to learn in the future.

Next time you hit the gym, why not put on a language app or podcast to help you learn? As learning a language has been proven to benefit your health, especially in older people as a potential way to ward off dementia.

Other solutions for learning a language

While exercising during learning could be an effective way to retain a language, there are other ways you can learn a language quickly. Experts like AJ Hoge explain that it’s important to immerse yourself in the language to learn it quickly, recommending 8-14 hours a day exposure. This can be difficult, but by listening to the radio and watching television in your chosen language and surrounding yourself with those who speak it – you can soon pick it up. This is similar to how children pick up their first language by hearing and seeing it around them.

Others may find that intensive courses are more effective, and can help them to develop a good understanding of a language in a short amount of time. These are ideal for those applying for jobs or preparing to move to another country.

Speaking an additional language is a great skill to have under your belt as well as prove to be a fun and interesting hobby. As another great way to get healthy without sacrificing a thing, you never know how you could benefit. In the job market, more and employers seeking candidates with additional language skills so it’s never too late to start learning a new language.

 

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