What Happens In Your Brain When You Speak Different Languages

The World Of Languages

There are currently 7,151 languages spoken in the world (source: Ethnologue) and around 40% of those are endangered.

I am a linguist by passion and have learned 6 of those. I still have 7,000+ to go.

Besides the obvious benefits of speaking different languages in a world that is ever more inter-connected, there are some incredible cognitive benefits:

Problem solving

When you speak different languages, your brain is figuring out different ways (languages) to send a message across, or find different solutions for a same problem.

Languages are definitely not a copy-paste of each other: the way they are designed, the grammar, the construction of the sentences is very different. In German the verb often goes at the end of the sentence!

Speaking a foreign language forces you to work on your problem-solving skills.

Active Listening

Being able to listen is an obvious requirement when learning a new language, but this is next level active listening in steroids.

Learning a foreign language is like learning to sing opera!

Mastering foreign accents is a task nearly impossible unless you are a native speaker because of how different the tones and sounds are. Mandarin has 4 tones, Cantonese has 8 and getting the wrong tone can have serious consequences!

I once ordered sugar at a restaurant in Shanghai in Chinese 糖 and got a soup 汤 instead, because I used the wrong tone for “la”.

Open mind

In order to master a foreign language you have to completely open your mind and “unlearn” your first language. Most “language virgins” struggle to detach themselves from their mother tongue and instinctively try to translate word by word.

That seldom works and linguistic fluency really happens when your brain totally resets, stops translating and starts thinking in the second language. That exercise is a best example of opening your mindset.


When you speak different languages, you immerse yourself in new realities. While the world “sea” is feminine in French (la mer), it is masculine in Spanish (el mar), and therefore my perspective of the sea changes depending on what language I am thinking: if French, I might think feminine, elegant, however in Spanish I think powerful, strong.

When you speak a foreign language, your brain is not only expressing ideas in a different way: it’s thinking differently all together.

You have 7000+ languages to chose from. Which one are you going to pick?


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Veronica Llorca Smith
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Veronica Llorca Smith



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