Language is perhaps the most important cognitive function we possess after memory. An argument can even be made that it is more critical than memory because we need language first to learn or encode any new information. Regardless, there is little doubt that language serves a fundamental neurobiological and psychological need for the human being.
It is common to experience slips in language processing including word finding and name recognition as we enter our forties or fifties. This is normal and probably relates more to stress and being hurried than anything pathologic. Our vocabulary tends to remain fixed which is nice, but we have the ability to grow our library of words at any age. Our verbal fluency or speed of expressing words also slows down with advanced age, but this is not necessarily a problem and may even be of value. Our ability to read and write remains intact, though our ability to comprehend what we read may not be as efficient.
So, what are some practical mental exercises that you can do to boost up your language skills?
1. Reading everyday including the dictionary is one good way to increase your vocabulary. With an increased vocabulary other parts of language such as word finding and fluency will improve.
2. Practice reviewing the names of your friends and peers by mentally associating a name with their face. You can also engage in a fun exercise in which you place unfamiliar pictures of faces on a table, apply a written name to each and then repeat each association until you no longer need the written names to recall the correct name for each face.
3. Take any letter of the alphabet and try and state aloud as many words as you can that begin with that letter in 60 seconds. With practice you may notice that your list of words generated gets longer.
4. Write a short segment on your day’s experience in a journal. This will help your articulation and emotional skills while practicing the motor skill of writing. Some research suggests that writing with passion have been known to live a longer life.
5. Write with a focus on increased ideas per sentence as research suggests this is good for the brain.
6. Work on your public speaking as this is a wonderful exercise to stimulate the brain and engage it in a complex, but fun language exercise. Talk about what you love and your anxiety will be reduced. Most let the anxiety prevent them from trying!
7. Crossword puzzles are fine as they promote reading and vocabulary. The same is true for word search games.
8. Name objects that you see on your way to work or the store. Object naming is a good mental exercise.
9. Work on the art of story telling.
10. FitBrains.com offers some good mental exercises for language. These include