“Michelle, ma belle.” Or do you prefer, “Besame Mucho”? We all know a few words in a foreign language, and more than 43 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 can have a conversation in at least two languages! But what about the millions of North Americans who speak only one? Good news! No matter what your calendar age, you can harness the power of language to develop and expand your brain. And that makes your RealAge younger -- much younger.
Learning new words adds gray matter, as a matter of fact. (Your brain doesn't have to shrink with age.) And adults actually are better at learning new languages than kids, if you can put aside linguistic habits (the brain gets trained to ignore sounds that it doesn't need for comprehension) and embrace the nonsensical. That's how kids learn; they associate sounds with objects, then recognize sounds and words as labels, then link words with meaning.
So to learn a new language, whether it's with a class or through audio tapes, remember these tips:
--Don't stress. If you get anxious about learning new phrases, they'll never stick. Meditate for five minutes before you start a lesson.
--Practice listening, and hearing. Tune into TV channels using the language you are learning. Don't worry about understanding, just let it wash over you. Understanding comes later.
--Stay in top shape: Speech is mental AND physical. Staying at a healthy weight and keeping blood pumping reduces bodywide inflammation and feeds your gray and white matter the oxygen and nutrients they need to stay sharp. Voila!
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information go to www.RealAge.com.