Scientists have discovered decades ago that learning new languages is beneficial for a child's intellectual development. By creating and organizing brain connections, language learning helps kids focus better and switch more easily between tasks and thereby perform better in school. But against popular belief, new research shows that adults can learn languages as easily as children. This might even be one of the best ways to learn a new language and a good reason to include this kind of activity in your family's routine.

According to neuroscientist John Grundy, “It's not true that adult brains no longer develop new connections.” In a recent study measuring neuronal activity in adult Spanish language learners, researchers at the University of Kansas found that their brain responses were similar to those of native speakers. “So adults can draw on the parts of their brains that already know one language well to learn another,” says neurolinguistics professor Robert Fiorentino, co-author of the study.

When kids and adults share the same learning experience, the rate at which their language skills develop is relatively equal, so when they learn a new language together as a family, they progress faster. Constantly speaking and hearing a language is essential to learning, says Christine Jernigan, author of Family Language Learning: Learn Another Language, Raise Bilingual Children. How better to do that than with the people closest to you?

Picture: Playing with Baby, by Eugenio Zampighi (Wikimedia Commons, w/Effects)