Pretty much everyone agrees that learning another language is a good thing and tons of research backs that up. Various studies have demonstrated that kids in foreign language programs tend to have greater cognitive development, creativity, and divergent thinking than monolingual children. Other studies show that people who are competent in more than one language outscore those who are speakers of only one language on tests of verbal and nonverbal intelligence.
Now add this research to the mix: A recent study undertaken in Sweden suggests that learning another language can actually increase the size of the brain. The study involved young adult military recruits who already demonstrated an aptitude for second-language acquisition. They were instructed to learn Arabic, Russian or Dari intensively for 13 months, while a control group of medical and cognitive science students also studied intensively, but not at languages. MRI scans revealed that the language learner’s brains grew in size while the control group’s remained unchanged.
Motivated to get your kids (and maybe yourself!) to learn another language? Here are our favorite language apps:
This language-learning app has a compellingly simple design, and offers unbeatable games and word-challenges to improve conversational and comprehension skills. All activities highlight common phrases, need-to-know vocabulary and an overall approach that focuses on hearing the language and learning its basic conversational building blocks over verb conjugation. Unique, challenging, beautifully designed and ultimately rewarding.
Hands down one of our favorite language learning apps, Duolingo works for middle school and high school kids looking for instruction in Spanish, Italian, German, French and Portuguese. Incredibly simple in design, Duolingo nevertheless teaches on a variety of levels: from vocabulary building, verb conjugation and comprehension with bite-sized lessons where kids earn points for correct answers, race against the clock and level up. Duolingo scales up or down in difficulty depending on your skill level, so learners of all levels can enjoy the experience.
Unlike Duolingo, which relies on just one visual language-learning format, MindSnacks’ animated, arcade-like atmosphere and game play will be more engaging to a younger user looking to build basic vocabulary and learn simple sentences. There are only two lessons in the free version; the full version gives a much richer language experience. Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Italian and Mandarin Chinese are all covered in distinct apps with vocabulary and spelling quizzes, phrase building lessons, as well as written and auditory comprehension activities. Over 1,000 words are learned in each language with 50 games. Specific to the Mandarin app, various tests offer lessons in recognizing and distinguishing tones.