Have you ever had the feeling of speechlessness because you are running out of words to speak your mind? Or have you ever read a word that you are familiar with but suddenly cannot recognize its meaning? Sometimes there also might be the case that you have a word in mind but you forget how to spell it right. These situations do not prove you are not intelligent enough but somehow show that your brain needs some more training.
Workouts aren’t just for your body, your brain needs them too.
The brain, anatomically speaking, cannot be called a muscle, though it is partly composed of muscle tissue.
There’s a very good reason though why experts use the analogy of exercising your brain as if it were a muscle. In both cases, you can be sure that if you don’t use it you’ll lose it. Evidence suggests that mental stimulation improves brain function whilst also reducing the risk of cognitive decline and related diseases.
So what kind of exercise does a brain need? Probably learning more words.
Your body needs exercise, your brain needs new words.
We learn words by simulating how they sound and visualize the concepts to which they are attached. Instead of verbalizing the words all the times, the brain is trained to recognize the words that frequently go together. That’s why sometimes when a word is misspelled, you can still recognize it easily.
Whenever we read, the visual cortex of the brain is stimulated to recognize the words. With continuous practice, our brain gets used to connecting images and concepts. This process can improve our memory because it helps our brain to recall the previous concepts and connect them with the existing stimuli.
Research also suggests that the brain is a dynamic organism.
“The brain changes as we learn more vocabulary, no matter the age, as vocabulary is learned at all ages.”
When we try to acquire a new word, the gray matter density increases as a result of learning, despite the age.
Researchers have performed a brain image analysis to show that people with similar verbal IQs can have different verbal knowledge levels when they try to increase the gray matter density through vocabulary acquisition. In other words, learning a new word is a practice for our brains to grow so as to improve our intelligence.
Learning a new word is good. Taking up a new language is great!
Learning a new language is, of course, an unsurpassable method for acquiring a huge amount of new vocabulary in a short amount of time. In addition to stimulating our brains, a new language also teaches us new concepts, and new realities.
Jay Rubin, the English translator to famous Japanese author Haruki Murakami, has illustrated this point finely:
“It’s still fascinating to sit back and realize that my brain is working in a totally different way when I’m functioning in Japanese. I very often feel I’m writing original -almost original- fiction. What’s on the page is Murakami’s prose, not his language.”
Japanese and English are vastly different; aside from containing very different sounds, they are composed of completely different grammatical structures. According to Rubin, Japanese also contains what he refers to as “intangibles,” words that express concepts that don’t exist in other languages.
These “intangibles” can of course be found across many languages. They illustrate the importance of having a high competence in the native language if you’re living in a different country and want to truly immerse yourself in its culture.
Apart from those foreign concepts, new words in our own language can also teach us new concepts, even as adults. Need to learn something technical that you know almost nothing about? It is very likely that you will have to learn a whole set of new vocabulary.
Learning new words will not only improve and increase our brain function, but also give us the ability to open up new worlds we may not have known existed.
Kickstart with your brain workout schedule!
For those who like to take on challenges, learning an entire new language might also be a good option. Apps like Duolingo and HellowTalk help you to keep track of your learning progress and provide quizzes and games to keep you motivated. Of course, you can also take a language class and interact with your fellow classmates often.
But my favorite way of learning new words and phrases is always from watching movies and listening to different types of songs. When I see or hear any words or phrases I’ve never come across before, I’d immediately put them down in my note (well it’s handy because I’m just jotting the new words down in my phone’s note app.)
One single new word every day will eventually make up a big list of words. Start from small and you’ll end up big!
Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io