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How To Learn Sign Language

Will Learning Another Language Make You Smarter?

Thanks for CuriosityStream for supporting
this episode! Go to to learn more [ ♪INTRO ] Parents were once warned against raising children
to speak more than one language. It’s bad for kid’s cognitive development,
they were told, and will result in bad grades and a lower IQ! And that ridiculous claim is still sometimes
repeated, especially here in the United States. But times have mostly changed. Now, if you believe the headlines, being bilingual
makes you smarter and more creative. And those headlines don’t come from nowhere. There is research which suggests that bilingualism
provides some specific cognitive advantages. And you can hardly blame the press for covering
these studies, because it’s such an appealing idea: teach your child French and you get
a better child! more creativity, multitasking, and academic performance in other subjects
all for free! But if that sounds too good to be true, that’s
because it is. You see, there are also studies that don’t
find an advantage. Those don’t get the same excited coverage. In this case, though, the media aren’t really
the ones to blame. When it comes to the effects of bilingualism
on the brain, there’s confusion and bias on the scientific side, too. And it all goes to show just how hard it can
be to understand what really goes on in our heads. Learning another language definitely has benefits
that’s no one can argue against — like, forexample, you’ll know another language! And it even makes sense that it could benefit
your brain in other ways. The main benefit is thought to be to executive
functions — the processes that control complex cognitive tasks like attention, problem solving,
planning, and so on. And that hypothesis isn’t unreasonable. It’s thought that these processes are kind
of like muscles — the more you use them, the better you get at them. And research has found that all sorts of cognitively
challenging activities improve executive functions. Like, playing video games can make you better
at assessing risks and placing bets. And music training can improve your ability
to focus on specific tasks. Since juggling two or more languages in your
brain is cognitively challenging in a lot of ways, it could have similar positive effects. Constantly switching between vocabularies
could help you be a better multitasker, for example, if it made you generally better at
quickly shifting your brain from one thing to another. But more than one analysis of the research
has found that the evidence for such benefits is weak and inconsistent. For example, a 2015 review in the journal
Cortex concluded that over 80% of the tests conducted over four years of studies don’t
show a bilingual advantage. Those that did had serious problems with their
methodology — like, they had small sample sizes or inadequate controls. But there’s a more foundational problem
with the published research on bilingualism: it doesn’t tell the whole story. This was pointed out by a study published
in 2014 in the journal Psychological Science. The researchers started by looking at the
research presented at conferences from 1999 to 2013. Roughly half these presentations found some
advantage for bilingualism and half didn’t. Then they looked at which ended up getting
published in journals, and found something striking: 68% of the positive studies got
published, while only 29% of the negative ones did. The published and unpublished studies didn’t
consistently differ based on sample size, experimental tests used, or statistical power. A study simply had a better chance of getting
published if it supported the idea that bilingualism gives people a cognitive boost, and a worse
chance of getting published if it showed the opposite, regardless of the quality of the
work. This is a phenomenon known as publication
bias, and it’s not unique to this situation, it’s not unique to psychology. It’s a pervasive issue scientists from all
fields are grappling with because it can undermine the research that is published. For example, a 2018 meta-analysis of over
150 studies on adults did find bilinguals were slightly better at some executive functions. But those advantages disappeared when the
researchers corrected for publication bias. Now, it’s important to point out that none
of this amounts to proof that there are no cognitive advantages to bilingualism. But it’s clearly going to take a lot more
work to figure out if there are, and if so, whether any of them are unique — or if studying
Japanese is basically the same as playing Minecraft, from your brain’s perspective. This also applies to another often-repeated
claim about bilingualism: that it can delay the onset of dementia. Again, the idea seems reasonable at first
glance, as other complex cognitive activities do seem to prevent or delay dementia. But, a 2015 review of the literature found
that the effects of bilingualism on dementia are very inconsistent. And that’s not all. There were some suspicious patterns in the
research methods. You see, prospective studies — the ones
that enroll people before they show symptoms and then test them as they age — tended
not to show an effect of bilingualism. Positive results were mostly found in retrospective
studies, which look at people after they’ve been diagnosed. Subjects in that kind of study may not be
representative of the whole population, and it’s harder to pick good controls. That all suggests that the researchers might
have been seeing what they wanted in the data, and having their judgement biased by their
expectations. So not only do studies on bilingualism have
issues with publication bias, there may be straight-up bias in many of them. And this all means we really don’t know
if learning a second language can give you some kind of subtle cognitive advantage or
keep your brain healthy as you age. Still, we can say that learning a language
does make you smarter. No matter what, you’ll know something you
didn’t know before. So in that sense, of course it makes you smarter. And it’s not going to hurt you, like they
thought in the old days. Not only that, with your new fluency, you
can experience whole new bodies of literature and arts, travel to interesting places, and
talk to more people. So yeah, being able to speak multiple languages
has lots of benefits, even if it’s not boosting your brain indirectly. If the idea of traveling the world and experiencing
new things sounds awesome to you, I have a feeling you’ll like the videos offered by
Curiosity Stream. CuriosityStream is a subscription streaming
service that offers over 2,400 documentaries and non­fiction titles from some of the world’s
best filmmakers, including exclusive originals. For example, if languages are your jam, you
might like their original documentary The History of English. It takes you on a trip through time and around
the world to understand how this particular language came to be a “linguistic superpower”. And they have videos on nature, history, technology,
and society and lifestyle, too. For as little as $2.99 a month, you can get
access to all of them. And if that’s not enough for you, as a SciShow
Psych viewer, you can get your first 31 days completely free! All you have to do is sign up at
and use the promo code ‘psych’, that’s P-S-Y-C-H during the sign-up process. [ ♪OUTRO ]

100 Replies to “Will Learning Another Language Make You Smarter?”

  • Go to to start streaming The History of English. Use the promo code ‘psych’ during the sign-up process to get your first 31 days free!

  • From my personal experience, learning Spanish helped me speak my native language (English) better. I began to understand language at its core. I never became fluent but I understood how language functioned. I never really thought about how we use “a” if the noun starts with a consonant or “an” if the noun starts with a vowel. It’s little things like that that I naturally learned from hearing English and goes beyond simply knowing another language that I think is important even if you don’t reach fluency.

  • I speak three languages and the only thing I know is that my second and third languages get mixed up. Sometimes I'm speaking in English (my second language) and Japanese (my third language) comes out of my mouth all of a sudden :/ I'm terrified it might happen at a job interview.

  • Growing up in the 60s my parents were told to only speak English to their children. So at 3 years old I started to learn English and pretty quickly lost my native language. Fast forward almost 60 years and I'm just another moron watching youtube late at night who can barely juggle one language in my head. So there might be something to this bilingual thing.

  • I'm multilingual, not only does it make me smarter, I can make objects levitate. Funfact: knowing 3 or more (4,5,6…) languages makes you multilingual.

  • English is my second language. So wouldn’t learning English and able to watch this video make me smarter?

  • I speak two languages, one is my native language but my second language is my dominant language. It's the one I think in and also the one I dream in. My issue is I don't always pick up emotions with my second language so at times I act a little psychopathic..

  • The only advantage of being bilingual, is me being able to comment here about this advantage 🤣🤣🤣

  • When I moved to France (as an American that only spoke English at the time) I learned the popular saying ''There are trilingual people, there are bilingual people,… and there are Americans. lol #tootrue

  • It does. But being smart may not be a linear attribute. Higher IQ’s may also be correlated with mental illness like being to happy can make one manic. I know English, Japanese, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, BASIC, PYTHON, psychopharmacology, and am an undergrad headed research doctor at Berkeley, and founder of an NGO…. check me and my work put at …. So YES, it does. There is a really beautiful proverb that goes 一芸は百芸に伝わる “One ART leads to 100 others.” …. and consequently why ARTS are just as relevant and healthy for the individual and our species as STEM. As a cognitive neuropsychology major I know that humans have an unfortunate tendency to over compensate. We are opportunist by design so when opportunity and means cross…..well….. we are all very prone to it……

    SO, DOES BEING BILINGUAL MAKE YOU SMARTER? Yes! But is “smarter a ‘good thing?’… And it all depends on how your study tactics are…. as a cognitive psychologist and ex-rockstar and actor, I can say with a high degree of inappropriately assumed medical certainty; that YOU make you smarter. The very feeling of finding the act of learning something wondrous and beneficial to oneself is what makes one smarter…….

    So the viewers of this show…. keep watching and also think out side the box, explore, BUT MOST OF ALL…. HELP the world, and those around you.


  • Nooo don't tell me that! I've been using the "bilingualism is good for your brain" article in my EFL lessons for the past 3 years D:

  • So… I basically watched a video saying "we don't know" for 6 minutes and a minute all dedicated to an advertisement. Cool. I mean, I still like the channel but some of these videos are becoming quite underwhelming. I know for a fact that they have done a lot of research behind this video and others as well but was it really necessary to make the video 7 minutes long just to say "I don't know"? :S

  • Learning another language makes you emotionally smarter! You are more likely to see people from other cultures as important as your own and opens you up to the world!

  • I know 3 languages and I find there are many benefits in every day life. English is actually my least favourite of the three. Its not as nuanced and logical, actually sounds pretty dumb and often doesnt make sense.

  • The whole world should use only one language, doing this will have so many advantages, everyone can talk with each other from every countries, there will be no need for learning more languages.

  • As someone who has learnt three languages (Spanish at home, and French as an adult), I would say knowing more more than one language is mixed. On the bad side, as a child English was my second language and was below average for much of my kid life (I eventually caught up at the teen stage). On the good side, there are so many cool benefits to knowing extra languages but relating to cognitive ones I would say that when I learnt french (as an adult), I felt my memory significantly improved and also improved my understanding of English.

  • I don't think we need scientific research to figure out that being bilingual can only be beneficial… Especially on the intellectual side!

    Being bilingual helps you access more diverse information and can help you understand semantic concepts that doesn't exists in your native language.

  • Propaganda works! Repetition works! see climate change …. The Sun makes a major difference and its been ignored because you can't blame it and get Cap and trade laws passed.

  • My emotional side speaks in my mother tongue. Anger, sadness, happiness. It translates easier in bahasa malaysia. But my technical n logical side speaks fluent english. Debate, reasoning, arguments. Works fast in english.

  • Well, I'm watching an english video and I'm very intelligent, that's proof enough to me, were can I publish this?

  • I’m happy that I was learned to speak Zulu from my mom and dad and Swedish and English in Sweden.

    I love languages and I’m happy that I know 3 languages and that I’m almost fluent in all 3 of them.

    Even though bilingualism doesn’t make you smarter it’s a great asset in life especially if you’re looking for a job.

  • Lmao. I think it might, but, if you learn or experience the culture even without learning the language, can still bring wisdom and insight…

  • Having access to two or more entire cultures is the main advantage of being bilingual! I get to experience so many more songs and movies and books etc!

  • I'm Dutch, but I speak (and especially understand) English pretty much fluently. Quite handy to know since it's a LOT easier to communicate with people. If I come across somebody that doesn't speak either I speak the beautiful language of Google Translate 🙂

  • Is it just me or is scishow getting more and more vague with their answers all I hear nowadays is “we ain’t entirely sure” to click bait discoveries and phenomenons. Yaal ain’t blowing my mind no more.

  • Learning a new thing makes you more knowledgeable, not smarter, unless you're a child whose brain's not fully formed. That's a common misconception.

  • I'm French and if I didn't learn english I would have missed out on so many cool things (including scishow). The english speaking internet is so much wider than the french one. French news are late on fads and science news by a month at least. In France, nearly everyone is one step behind and they don't even know it. Even memes are old.

  • I grew up bilingual and I can't say it made my grades better (oopsie), but it sure as hell made learning new dialects and languages wayyyy easier. Hell, it literally made my English better just because my other language is German and I could compare vocabulary and understand where certain words came from at a really young age. Then I took Latin and now there isn't a western European word I can't pronounce. Seriously believing that only knowing one language is better than two is the most staunchly ethnocentric thing I've ever heard.

  • As a dane. Knowing only danish is an almost impossible way of living. The best research is in english. Best movies. Best games. And so on. Not to mention at work. Knowing english is a huge advantage with lots of coworkes across boarders.

  • I feel like the more you make your brain work, the better it will be at solving problems. Obviously anything is better than just watching a tv screen or YouTube…
    Oh wait…

  • Speaking only one language doesn't guarantee a lower IQ. It can, I guess but speaking more than one language should raise your IQ. It should.

  • I definitely think it's improving me in one area, which is basically the "You know another language" area, except kind of applied to my native language. I am a lot more able to process what the words I say actually MEAN beyond the connotations of the phrases, and the automatic ability to know where to put words like "The." I am more able to understand the actual definition of these words, and more properly place them in a sentence. I'm still not GOOD at grammar, I won't lie haha, but I definitely think it's improving my understanding of my own language and improving my ability to communicate.

    It's also expanding my.. ears?? I am able to hear the actual noises in foreign languages better than I was when I only knew English, because I now understand how different some noises can sound while still sounding so similar to ours, and I am also better at pronouncing foreign words (Usually) because I understand one important thing when it comes to things that need to be romanized: Usually, standard romanizations are going to want to be consistent so that you know which letter correlates to which noise. Usually, the A letter isn't going to be like in "Apple" sometimes and "Apparently" other times, it's only going to be one of those. This helps me to figure things out. Even in languages that aren't romanized, they tend to be more phonetically consistent than English anyways, so you can usually assume that, aside from dipthongs and such, the letters' corresponding noises will be pretty consistent.

    Also, learning another language, even just knowing the basics of a single language (Which is where I am atm) has made it easier for me to pick up on sentences and words and sentence structures in other languages too, without someone actually telling me how it works. Basically I sometimes can pick up on something how a baby would, which is with no guidance whatsoever beyond listening.

    Essentially, learning just the verrryyy basics, as in, I can make a few small sentences in one language, has improved my understanding of language in general, communication, and my ability to pick up on and pronounce foreign words and just peoples' accents. I would say this definitely counts towards improving intelligence in some ways, even if those ways it improves you is just more things involving language. After all, who ever said that understanding language and grammar isn't a part of intelligence?

  • When you learn a language you learn another way to see the world, specially if you're not attached to translation too much. It's such a shame nowadays people don't even learn English enough to understand a video like this, dispide of the fact they spend enough time to learn several languages on social media.

  • So in short: learning another language gives the advantage of being able to speak another language. Das ist wirklich sehr interessant!

  • I'm learning japanese as a native english speaker, and i can say at times it really is like playing minecraft inside my head.

  • Learning another language adds to the amount of fun you can have in life. You get a whole new set of jokes to laugh at!

  • Bilingualism did not prevent my grandmother from getting dementia. But something strange happened in her language center. My grandmother's first language was Slovak, which she spoke until the age of 6, when she came to the US. From then on, she spoke almost exclusively English. So, by the time I knew her, she hadn't spoken it in many many years. When I would ask her how to say something in Slovak, she struggled to remember words and phrases… the language was mostly lost to her. But when she started to suffer from dementia, she would sometimes speak in Slovak without even realizing it. She might not remember who I was, but she would suddenly be fluent in a language she had mostly forgotten long ago. The lost language would return to her.

  • In the Philippines, we are largely biligual, or trilingual for Filipino-Chinese such as myself, plus Ecclesiastical Latin and Koine Greek as liturgical languages.

    Interestingly, I can think of two or three different things/topics independently as long as I talk to myself inside of my head in different languages.

  • Having learned French as my second language throughout my school days, I noticed patterns between words. With this in mind and comparing similar languages such as Spanish or even Latin, I found I was achieving a better understanding of these similarities. As I am a curious by nature, I applied this to ideas in facts and figures that made sense to me. So what I am saying basically is that having a second language made it easier for me to apply what I found similar to expand my knowledge! All in all, I believe it's true. 🇨🇦

  • To me english help me to learn new thing that I can't search on internet with my native language.

    And it's useful asf.

  • When I was still in school back in the 90s-early 2000s we actually had an elective bilingual class where different subjects were thought in English or French in addition to German (I'm from Germany, obivously). This is the first time I've ever heard of it making kids dumber.
    Not that I took it. I was a horrible student with bad grades in English and learned mostly from games, movies and the internet. But I do think in three different languages and I'd say I'm a really good multi-tasker, at least as far as talking goes. I can easily follow several conversations or talk while playing a challenging game, reading a book or messaging someone on my phone.

  • Most people on this planet are multilingual, so claiming bilingualism has a cognitive advantage isn't complementing bilinguals, it degrades monolinguals who're a minority by far. The media should stop pushing this discouraging narrative and just encourage monolinguals to learn a new language. There're so many reasons to do so.

  • How I se e it. Different languages have different sets of ideas coded in words, and different schemas for manipulating those ideas. Knowing two, gives you two whole sets of ways of percieveing and understanding facts. It's like having two pictures of the same object taken from different perspectives. Makes it a little closer to the objective thing than just one. And so on.. hm, I need to learn a third one :p
    Edit: Check out Steven Pinker's work if interested.

  • Betteridge's law strikes again.

    someone who speaks 4 and roughly understands many more rooted in those 4

  • I think there is a subtle gain in terms of based of what language you learn and how you learn it.

    Learning languages requires understanding of composition – and structure. Some, more so than others.

    In that sense – I expect it to reinforce the aspects of which require compositional reasoning and memory.

  • research seems to indicate that learning another (a second or just a new) language helps people with Alzheimer syndrome keep their memories longer.

  • You don't become bilingual by learning a second language, you are only bilingual if you have two native languages.

  • Every culture has a slightly different view on the world.
    The language of each culture reflects those differences.
    Haven't you ever heard the phrase "It can't quite be translated" ?
    Or heard a cultural saying that stumped you – until you were taught how it became a saying for that community?
    Speaking – thinking – in a different language expands your viewpoint, enriches your perspective, by adding that new dimension of another culture to your internal monologue.

    Being able to think in more dimensions makes you a more creative observer… potentially a more creative problem solver.
    Smarter? Might not be the right word. More versatile in your thoughts.
    Try it. I challenge you 😛

  • but if you can raise your kid to have 5 genders he will become an alien 😀
    Languages don't have that effect, sooo.. yeah.

  • Yeah being bilingual is nice but I can't count the number of times some idiot told me "This is America speak English" !

  • I don't understand the motive on the bias. By the way, I speak 5 languages fluently AND I am one of those low achievers struggleing constantly with financial problems. So knowing languages may not always boost your abilities.

  • stop bashing americans. there are two languages, maybe three, that we can learn in school. spanish is useful, but hardly anyone wants to take it. french is popular, but entirely useless in the usa. german, if an option, is even more useless here. a lot of americans never even leave the country.

    plus, i know plenty of people who are bilingual & i live in the whitest town ever.. yes, learning more languages is a very good idea, but they have reasons??

  • I've learned English with an American accent. Now I'm trying to get a Bitish accent and I've found that getting a British accent is pretty difficult (even if the sounds for As, Ts and Os are pretty similar to the sounds of the same letters of my 1st language). And also: I can say, from personal experience, that learning a new language did not made me any smarter.

  • From what I've read it wouldn't be KNOWING and extra language that would help prevent dementia, but LEARNING one when you're the kind of age where that kind of thing starts. That's at least how I always interpreted it, because it makes more sense: you're forcing your brain to form new connections, keeping it busy and thus potentially distracted from wanting to destroy existing ones. Or something. I dunno that sounded logical in my brain XD But seriously, learning another language has one very obvious advantage (this is from experience): It makes it easier to learn other languages (because you already know more about a few different ways grammar systems can work, you might come across overlapping vocabulary… I mean, there are a few dutch words in russian and spanish. Go figure.) Also, I guess I'm going to make an unfounded claim here (someone please research this) but at least from my experience I would say it helps you memorize stuff in general. Because learning a language is a lot of cramming words and their meanings/equivalents in a language you already know, I have the impression it's helped me form mnemonic aids and just memorize more easily in general.

  • I actually speak 6 languages fluently and bits and pieces of other 2. No, I'm not smart or fishing for compliments. I'm actually dumb as hell. 😑😔🙃

  • Waaaaaait, I speak 4 languages, and I can tell u from firsthand experience and based on my life choices I’m very much a dumbass.

  • Language can shape the way you think. Knowing different languages changes the way I see things some times. It's also interesting to see the patterns in different languages and how some words exist in one language but doesn't in another. I don't understand why anyone would ever reject learning a new language and even HATING others for knowing more than one language.

  • “challenging activities improve executive functions” thatd be great for my executive dysfunction except i cant do challenging things because i have executive dysfunction 🙃

  • I have to learn 3 languages since kindergarten but I think one advantage is being able to communicate better with more people and gives you more jokes to play around with

  • i think one of the problems with bilingual learning in respect to brain function is (and bilingual people might attest ): once you are good at it you hardly put any effort on it, there are even times when you recall something and you doubt if it was in your native or your acquired language. it seems that your brain just add a new dictionary to "communications" instead of treating each language separately, which might have to be with how we learn the concept of something before we can even communicate with words and assign a word to a particular concept (you know what an apple is before you know how to pronounce the word for it)

  • I'm working on learning a 9th language, and that's just for fun! I find languages fascinating, and since I started out trilingual, it has always been easy for me to just look at words in other languages and compare them to languages I already know to figure out what they mean.

  • It depends on what the language is. If it is a crap language like Spanish or French, you will get dumber for the knowledge of it.

  • If you are born in India especially in mumbai you will learn your mother tongue(both read and write) through your family members and other 3 language(marathi, english and hindi) (read and write) you will learn in school

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