Didn't learn a second language as a kid? No worries. Here's why you might want to learn one anyway.

Believe it or not, before the 1960s, researchers thought children learning other languages was a handicap.

Wait. Seriously? Yep.


As educator Mia Nacamulli explains in the TED-Ed video below, bilingual kids have shown slower reaction times on some language tests. People back in the day made some hypotheses that that must mean it's a drawback for students.

But researchers now know that learning another language is actually an amazing way to keep your brain healthy.

It won't necessarily make you smarter, but Nacamulli points out it's now believed that being bilingual* exercises your brain and makes it stronger, more complex, and healthier. And if you're young, you get an added bonus.

*Fluently bilingual. Like, using it on a daily basis. Not just being able to remember — vaguely and many years after that one seventh-grade class — how to ask, "¿Dónde está el baño?"

What does being bilingual really do?

1. It changes the structure of your brain.

Researchers have observed being multilingual can visibly make the neurons and synapses in the brain's gray matter denser and spur more activity in other regions of the brain when using another language. Basically, it's a brain workout! And another neurological study notes the white matter in the brains of older lifelong bilinguals has a higher integrity compared to older monolinguals.

2. It strengthens your brain's abilities.

That gray matter up there contains all the neuronal cell bodies and stuff (that's a technical term) that controls your muscles, senses, memory, and — you guessed it — speech. Newer studies show that those slow reaction times and errors on language tests really reflect that the effort of switching between languages is beefing up the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — the part of yer noggin' that controls problem-solving, switching tasks, and focusing on important stuff while filtering out what's irrelevant.

3. It can help delay Alzheimer's and dementia by as much as four or five years.

Yes. Sí. Oui. When bilinguals are compared to monolinguals, that is. And although some cognitive research notes there's still a similar rate of decline after onset, more years of a super-strong brain is always a good thing.

Now, this fourth one gets a little bit nuts. Nacamulli says it's believed there's a key difference between a young bilingual person and someone who learns another language in adulthood.

4. There's a theory that children who are bilingual get to be emotionally bilingual.

The parts of the brain that are being strengthened while speaking multiple languages include not just the analytical and logical side of the brain but the emotional and social side as well.

It's called the critical period hypothesis.

GIF via TED-Ed.

The separation of the hemispheres increases as we grow up, so when you're a kid — the hypothesis holds — the two sides are a little more plastic and ready to work together while learning language. Nacamulli says this could be why children seem to get the contextual social and emotional nuances of other languages better than grown-ups who became multilingual later and instead often think ... well ... like grown-ups.

Speaking more than one language turns our brains into powerhouses, and it makes our children more emotionally intelligent!

It's definitely not a handicap. It's a superpower.

For more on the magical bilingual brain, TED-Ed has some great info!

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When Benny Mendez asked his middle school P.E. students why they wanted to participate in STOKED—his new after school program where kids can learn to skateboard, snowboard, and surf—their answers surprised him.

I want to be able to finally see the beach, students wrote. I want to finally be able to see the snow.

Never having seen snow is understandable for Mendez's students, most who live in Inglewood, CA, just outside of Los Angeles. But never having been to the beach is surprising, since most of them only live 15-20 minutes from the ocean. Mendez discovered many of them don't even know how to swim.

"A lot of the kids shared that they just want to go on adventures," says Mendez. "They love nature, but...they just see it in pictures. They want to be out there."

Mendez is in his third year of teaching physical education at View Park K-8 school, one of seven Inner City Foundation Education schools in the Los Angeles area. While many of his students are athletically gifted, Mendez says, they often face challenges outside of school that limit their opportunities. Some of them live in neighborhoods where it's unsafe to leave their houses at certain times of day due to gang activity, and many students come to his P.E. class with no understanding of why learning about physical health is important.

"There's a lot going on at home [with my students]," says Mendez. "They're coming from either a single parent home, or foster care. There's a lot of trauma behind what's going on at home...that is out of our control."

Photo courtesy of Yoplait

What Mendez can control is what he gives his students when they're in his care, which is understanding, some structure, and the chance to try new things. Mendez wakes up at 4:00 a.m. most days and often doesn't get home until 9:00 p.m. as he works tirelessly to help kids thrive. Not only does he run after school programs, but he coaches youth soccer on the weekends as well. He also works closely with other teachers and guidance counselors at the school to build strong relationships with students, and even serves as a mentor to his former students who are now in high school.

Now Mendez is earning accolades far and wide for his efforts both in and out of the classroom, including a surprise award from Yoplait and Box Tops for Education.

Yoplait and Box Tops are partnering this school year to help students reach their fullest potential, which includes celebrating teachers and programs that support that mission. Yoplait is committed to providing experiences for kids and families to connect through play, so teaming up with Box Tops provided an opportunity to support programs like STOKED.

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This article originally appeared on 5.7.15



The Story of Bottled Water www.youtube.com

Here are six facts from the video above by The Story of Stuff Project that I'll definitely remember next time I'm tempted to buy bottled water.

1. Bottled water is more expensive than tap water (and not just a little).

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Photo courtesy of Macy's
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Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

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