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Lifelong bilinguals may have more efficient brains
January 8th, 2013
05:01 PM ET

Lifelong bilinguals may have more efficient brains

Neuroscientists have been discovering mounting evidence that being fluent in more than one language protects against age-related cognitive declines.  But there's still the major question: Why?

Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to get a closer look at the brains of both bilinguals and monolinguals, comparing how their activity differs during specific tasks.  This new study, published Tuesday in the Journal of Neuroscience,  expands upon previous ideas that bilinguals tend to show superior task-switching abilities compared to monolinguals. The study was led by Brian Gold of the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

Methods

Scientists recruited 110 people who all took a survey about language background, abilities and frequency of usage. "Lifelong bilinguals" were defined as people who are fluent in two languages, specifically those who spoke English and another language every day since age 10 or younger.  There was a variety of languages represented among the bilinguals, which adds to the strength of the experiments, said Judith Kroll, professor of linguistics and psychology at Pennsylvania State University, who was not involved in this study.

Results

Bilinguals and monolinguals scored about the same, on average, on tests of simple working memory.  But in experiments where participants were switching between perceptual tasks, the older adult bilinguals were faster than the older adult monolinguals.

Generally among younger participants, performance did not appear to be related to bilingual vs. monolingual status.

"The fact that only the older bilinguals reveal these differences also demonstrates that this isn't a simple effect," Kroll said.  "After all, the older lifelong bilinguals were once younger lifelong bilinguals."

The pattern of brain activity observed in adult bilinguals was similar to what the researchers saw in younger adults.  Their better performance appeared to require "less activation in several frontal brain regions linked with effortful processing," the study said.  In other words, the older bilinguals were using their brains more efficiently than the older monolinguals.

"This suggests that neural efficiency may represent a core underlying mechanism of the bilingual task-switching advantage in aging," the study authors wrote.

The researchers did not find significant differences in the volumes of key brain regions between monolinguals and bilinguals, suggesting that size was not a factor in performance.

Limitations and future research

As with many fMRI studies, the sample size in this series of experiments was relatively small.  The cost of the fMRI process often limits the number of participants in studies of this nature.  Further research with more participants should be done to confirm the results.

Based on this study, it's unclear whether starting to learn a second language later in life would give the same cognitive benefits as lifelong bilingualism.  A different study could compare people who had begun language acquisition at various ages.

The cognitive benefits of being bilingual in old age, as observed in this study, could be considered analogous to brain benefits from exercise and other kinds of training seen in other research.  Kroll noted that if that is the case, then perhaps the age of language acquisition isn't so important, but more research needs to be done in order to verify this.

Bottom line

Kroll said the study "makes an exciting contribution" to this line of research about the cognitive advantages of being bilingual in old age.  There had been some skepticism about whether it was truly the knowledge of two languages that's linked to particular benefits in aging, or some other underlying characteristic that bilinguals have.

"We and others have suggested that bilinguals are 'mental jugglers' for whom the continuous activity of both languages imposes the demand to select the intended language, but we are still at an early stage of understanding how language experience specifically produces the sort of neural efficiency reported in this study," Kroll said.


soundoff (89 Responses)
  1. Arturo Féliz-Camilo

    Reblogged this on Teacher Arturo's Blog.

    January 8, 2013 at 17:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • 3rdCultureChildren

      Just adding a bit more: "To have a second language, is to possess a second soul..."[Charlemagne] One of my favorite quotes about language... thanks!

      http://wp.me/p1oMvI-1Or

      January 17, 2013 at 13:21 | Report abuse |
    • 3rdCultureChildren

      Just adding a bit more: "To have a second language, is to possess a second soul..."[Charlemagne] One of my favorite quotes about language...Here's the link for the site, if interested – thanks!

      http://wp.me/p1oMvI-1Or

      January 17, 2013 at 13:22 | Report abuse |
  2. Anand

    It will be interesting to know how many of those bilinguals are also Immigrants.

    January 8, 2013 at 17:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lagunalady27

      I am multi-lingual, and my immigrant ancestors came here in the 1500's. My first language is English. I am also fluent in German and French, which I began studying at thirteen. I have picked up some Spanish, but do not speak "Spanglish". I don't mix languages.

      The article mentions "juggling" languages. That's fairly accurate, but I prefer to think of the various languages as being in a file cabinet. My mind automatically opens the correct drawer, as needed. I don't have to think about which language to use, as I am listening to what people are saying, and not the actual language they are using.

      I'm almost sixty-five, and sharp as a tack. Language acquisition should be encouraged, as there is no downside to it. It should never be denegrated, as was done by Derek. Shame on you!

      January 8, 2013 at 20:41 | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      90 percent

      January 10, 2013 at 17:01 | Report abuse |
    • Harold Simmons

      Anand is a moron. The name Anand as one can see is not an American name. Now let's ask, where do you come from??
      If not you, one of your relatives may have been an immigrant.

      January 10, 2013 at 23:57 | Report abuse |
    • Harold Simmons

      Everyone, Anand is a moron. The name Anand as one can see is not an American name. Now let's ask, where do you come from??
      If not you, one of your relatives may have been an immigrant.

      January 11, 2013 at 00:07 | Report abuse |
    • jvflyer

      To Harold Simmons: your name is not American either. It is possible that it is English.

      Perhaps your mommy intended to call you Dick, but she was too polite...Dick.

      January 11, 2013 at 12:16 | Report abuse |
  3. derek

    that's why it's bueno to habla spanglish

    January 8, 2013 at 20:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Terry

      Then why are they dropping out of school at stratospheric rates if they're so smart? Probably found dealing drugs and other crime more fun.

      January 10, 2013 at 10:03 | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      lol. absoluto!

      January 10, 2013 at 10:57 | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Terry es el malo malo idiota. : D

      January 10, 2013 at 10:58 | Report abuse |
  4. 3rdCultureChildren

    I'm really glad to have stumbled upon this blog... It gives us [bi/multilingual parents] the comfort and reinforcement we've been longing for, while struggling with our bi/multilingual children... I guess it comes to show that, somehow, we're still on the right track, trying to transfer to our [growing] kids the importance of our mixed/hybrid culture through language! As a former researcher/scientist, and now, around-the-clock mother of 3 third culture children, juggling with 3 languages in our household (English, Portuguese and Spanish) as part of our daily routine, I applaud studies like this one, and can only say 'Thank you!'.

    http://3rdculturechildren.com/2013/01/04/comments-and-extra-thoughts-on-multilingual-parent/

    January 8, 2013 at 20:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lagunalady27

      I once had student who were tri-lingual. They were cousins. Their families divided life into physical zones where each of the three languages was spoken. One at home, one out and about and the other when visiting the other household. I met them when they were about fourteen. They switched seamlessly between languages, with the correct accent intact.

      Keep up the good work. It will pay off BIGTIME!

      January 8, 2013 at 20:46 | Report abuse |
    • 3rdCultureChildren

      Thank you so much for your support! My first language is Portuguese, and at the age of 8, began speaking/thinking in English, due to School. My husband [US-born] brings to the table his English/French maternal background, coupled with a strong Mexican-American paternal heritage. Even before we had kids, we'd talked about offering them all 3 languages: I'd always speak/transfer cultural traditions to the kids in Portuguese, husband would address them in Spanish and we both would address the English needs, the playground language, and the schooling/homework/social interaction common language... We've got 3, all 7 years of age, and under! So far, it seems to be working – kids don't mix up the languages... it's, like you said, a sort of 'file cabinet', where they go when in need for this or that [language]. They're very social, adjusted and adapted to their [constantly moving] realities [due to work, we move to a different country every couple of years]. We're pleased with the current results, and very hopeful for our children's future. Thank you again for sharing your experiences – as I stated earlier, it gives us [parents] the so-much needed comfort and reaffirmation we're looking for!
      Will keep up working on the multi-language/multicultural scenario... I'm sure it'll pay forward! :o Thank you!

      January 8, 2013 at 20:57 | Report abuse |
    • bilingualadult

      Keep it up! My parents moved to Germany when my siblings and I were still all under 3 years old. My parents spoke limited German but decided that if we were to live in Germany the best thing would be for us to go through the local schools and pick up German. We always spoke English at home and learned German as a result of being placed in German kindergarten and continuing through their education system. Because of my parents' networking, I grew up with several 3rd culture kids. The benefits of being able to switch between two or more languages are real, but more so – I think your kids will grow up to be extremely balanced adults with a unique and valuable perspective of the world as a whole. The most inclusive and critical thinkers I have encountered are those of 3rd culture kids – kids who have been exposed to so many cultures that it gives them a more tolerant and holistic approach to humanity and the world. With globalization advancing at the rate that it is, I can only say that you can be reassured that you shouldn't worry about the multilingualism or the moving too too much. Ultimately I think that your kids are better people for it and will, as adults, thank you for the many things you have exposed them to. I know I am so very grateful for everything my parents did for us (and I know they worried about it too).

      January 9, 2013 at 05:51 | Report abuse |
    • Paul H

      Expect enrollment at elementary aged language immersion schools like the public trilingual Mandarin-Spanish-English program at Riverview Elementary in Lakeside, CA to increase. In fact, trilingualism in an Asiatic language and a Romance language has been shown to increase activity over both sides of the brain, not just in switching tasks on one side of the brain. This is the modern preparatory program for parents intending their students to attend Tier 1 regionally accredited US universities upon high school graduation. Any so-called prep school not offering this type of opportunity is not worth the time to drive the kids there.

      January 9, 2013 at 15:36 | Report abuse |
  5. coach BBB

    i have a 23yr & 2yr old twins. . im bi in turkish & engkis. . wife is enlish. . . im amazed how my kids can transfer into language files wen spoken to in a language. . whatever my wife says in english, i spit it out in turkish (yeas, im always on gaurd to an oppurinty to learn a 2nd language) . wife will at times repeat noun words that can pick up on, but most important, i am having my daughter share turkish words towards d younger twins. . i do notice my daughter evolving w languages such as using a word in turkish & adding an english suffix/prefix, absolutly elated in my one man stay home dad show. thanks for darticle, bc i notice my kids attention to words & phrases very attentive, which can only help them in such a world wide life we will live in ! kudoos !

    January 8, 2013 at 22:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. coach BBB

    oops. . .a 3yr old & 2r old twins (yea my home is vey busy & active) i love my family & life.

    January 8, 2013 at 22:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Pippa

    There's nothing wrong with speaking franglais (french/english), spanglish or any other combination of languages.
    Ask any polyglot:-)

    January 9, 2013 at 06:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • empresstrudy

      I'm pretty sure Welsh was invented by someone having a stroke.

      January 9, 2013 at 09:27 | Report abuse |
    • lagunalady27

      I am a polyglot. I don't mix languages, except when "playing" with them. There is a danger in mixing languages. I have known several people who did so, and were thereafter only understood by people who spoke both languages. This is because the listener had to figure out what was meant by the speaker. I have seen people in tears over this. So I do not recommend doing it.

      January 9, 2013 at 20:11 | Report abuse |
  8. 3rdCultureChildren

    @bilingualadult Oh! Thank you so very much for all the encouragement! And it's great to get a REAL person, with real [life] experiences and challenges! the theory always helps us move forward, but the true stories, are simply priceless! Thank you all here for all the great comments and words of support! Much appreciated! :o

    January 9, 2013 at 08:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Lola

    I'm middle age and feel like my brain is getting rusty. Anyway, I speak 3 languages, but I don't separate and translate like many people do, I think in the other languages so I don't think I'll get those benefits. It's the separating that probably helps with the efficiency.

    January 9, 2013 at 08:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lagunalady27

      You will get the benefit. I speak three languages. I think in the language I am speaking. That is what the author means. You automatically switch, you do not translate. That is different.

      January 9, 2013 at 20:15 | Report abuse |
  10. empresstrudy

    Does Latin, Koine Greek and Aramaic count?

    January 9, 2013 at 09:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Holly

    I live in America and America is an English speaking nation. I have never had any reason to learn another language that is until I tried to find employment in the customer service field. Then I had to learn Spanish to accomodate those who refuse to learn English. That to a American Loving person stinks. I find it extremely rude when people speak any language not understood by all in the area. I go shopping and feel like I am in a foreign country. Then to say that it makes someone more intelligent to speak two languages. As my Granny would say HOG WASH!

    January 9, 2013 at 09:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Esme'

      Isn't that kind of one-dimensional, your thought process in all of this? The US is a myriad of cultures, so English wasn't even the founding language here to begin with if you want to be technical about America being an English speaking nation. I do wholeheartedly agree it can get frustrating when you can't communicate with another individual when you don't speak their language. I speak 4 languages and I still have problems communicating with individuals because I don't know what their saying.

      January 9, 2013 at 10:48 | Report abuse |
    • Esme'

      They're

      January 9, 2013 at 10:49 | Report abuse |
    • xirume

      @Holly: That's a big chip you have on your shoulder.

      January 9, 2013 at 10:59 | Report abuse |
    • Shea

      Holly, you are obviously not very educated, and your ignorance is astounding. Just think using a bit of basic logic here: Obviously, using your brain for more than one language has benefits. Will a person who can speak more than one language use MORE or LESS of his brain? Is is good for your brain to know MORE things or LESS things?

      This xenophobic idea that speaking other languages is somehow bad and everyone should speak English is laughable – join the 21st century. Maybe you should try leaving the country and learning something about the world outside of your neighborhood. I can gaurantee that if you do that, no one will think you are being rude when you *gasp* dare to speak to other English speakers in your native language.

      How sad for you that you feel so threatened simply by being around people who speak a language that you don't. I love living in New York and walking down the street in Midtown Manhattan hearing Spanish, French, Chinese, British English, and then maybe a strong Bronx accent. I am impressed when I meet people from other countries who effortlessly switch back and forth between 2 or languages, and hope to re-familiarize myself with Spanish so that I may once again be fluent. AND KEEP MY BRAIN STRONG AND MY MIND OPEN.

      January 9, 2013 at 11:04 | Report abuse |
    • erin

      Holly, are you fluent in Spanish? If so, how many years, how many hours of study, and how much of an expense was it for you to acheive that? Transfer that to someone who may not have the financial or linguistic resources to be able to access the language study that you did. Why do you assume that Spanish-speaking immigrants "refuse" to learn English? Yes, English is the primary language of our nation, but the beauty of our country is that you can't paint us all with one brush. Our strength lies in our diversity. Embrance it, instead of being bitter.

      January 9, 2013 at 11:12 | Report abuse |
    • Love Your Neighbor

      Holly, here's a definition of RUDE: expecting someone to speak your language so that you can listen in on private conversations that are NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. When I'm speaking with my husband in his native language, or he's talking on the phone with his mom, it is NONE of your concern what the subject under discussion is. You want to know what everyone around you is saying? Seriously? How old are you – 4?

      January 9, 2013 at 13:54 | Report abuse |
    • Spenser Amadeus

      And if Holly went to Cancun for a vacation, would she suddenly, miraculously know how to speak Spanish? Nope! She would speak English, even though Mexico is a "Spanish speaking nation". And she would expect everyone there to speak Engligh to her. And they would because they, unlike Holly,are bi-lingual.

      January 9, 2013 at 13:57 | Report abuse |
    • lagunalady27

      You had me until you ignored the science. My family has been in this country before it was one. I agree that we should ALL be fluent and literate in English. I agree that switching languages in front of someone we assume does not know the language is just plain rude.

      But, exercising the brain improves it. Learning different types of musical instruments, or different types of math would give the same results as being multi-lingual. Don't let rude people spoil language learning for you! Find one you think sounds pretty or might be fun to know, and do it for yourself.

      January 9, 2013 at 20:21 | Report abuse |
    • Exar Kun

      Translation: I'm an ignoramus and proud of it! How dare all you educated people try to tell me that I should learn another language!

      January 10, 2013 at 23:07 | Report abuse |
    • NC Coast Dweller

      How do you know they aren't taking ESL classes? So you think the ability to speak English is automatic as soon as the Visa is handed over?

      My husband and his family are (legal) immigrants. They busted their rumps to learn how to speak/read/write in English. My in-laws often speak in their native language in front of me. I am not so conceded to think that they are speaking about me. Some words/phrases/ideas don't translate into other languages easily and my husband and sister in law often have to explain things to their parents in their native tongue, even though my in-laws learned to speak English 15+ years ago.

      January 11, 2013 at 16:27 | Report abuse |
    • Jorge

      Holly, you remind me of the nineteenth-century blacksmith who reviled the automobile because he refused to learn the inner workings of the Otto engine, and because he would soon be out of a job shodding horses. The U.S. now depends greatly on it's ability to conduct commerce with other countries, none of which have any particular interest in imposing English as a first languge on their population (at great expense) for your sake. If you want to make yourself more marketable in the foreseeable business community, I suggest you learn a second language, perhaps Mandarin or Spanish, which as GNP growth indicators point out, will become increasingly more important worldwide. Estás atrás, chica, ponte al día.

      January 15, 2013 at 09:18 | Report abuse |
  12. BJ

    I think the real test would to compare data between monolingual adults with different languages as their first language and not just English speaking monoliguals. The rest of the world already knows that most Americans are not as smart as them.

    January 9, 2013 at 10:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Candy

      Maybe – so but when the other countries get into trouble and need help from our over flowing generosity, who do they call – not Ghost Busters. The call for help from the USA and usually get it because we dumb Americans are not as intelligent as they are. If we were we would say "sorry but we need to keep our money here at home. " If I were in charge of this nation no one would be here without an invitation and no one who would disrespect America would get one dime from us – well maybe except for birth control. And it would be mandantory that anyone comng here legally must learn English use and write it.

      January 9, 2013 at 16:28 | Report abuse |
  13. JLS639

    Older studies of military families who had children born and raised stateside, born and raised abroad and born abroad and raised stateside have shown the changes in bilinguals begin very early (before they learn to speak and before birth). Of course, bilingualism from birth or before this is interesting from a scientific standpoint but not useful as a medical application. You can teach kids new languages in elementary school, but having more languages spoken at home is more tricky.

    January 9, 2013 at 10:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Eking

    My mother speaks 4 languages fluently. My father spoke 5. My mom is 90 and sharp as a tack. My dad died at 87 of pneumonia
    but also was mentally sharp til the end. Perhaps there is something to this. Davvero!

    January 9, 2013 at 12:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Candy

      Doubt it both my parents lived to be in their 90's and never had any reason to learn any language except English.They were both very intelligent with college educations. They had no problems with their mind right to the end. So that does not flush that learning more languages than one will make you live longer.

      January 9, 2013 at 16:33 | Report abuse |
  15. Spenser Amadeus

    Get off your high horses and stop looking at bi-linguals as somehow being inferior to you. Do you realize that the United States is one of the few countries in the civilized world where a child doesn't have to speak AT LEAST TWO LANGUAGES in order to graduate from high school?

    January 9, 2013 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lagunalady27

      Actually, in most of the world three is the minimum. Here, we just don't want to spend the money on teachers. We would rather pay for ignorance than education.

      January 9, 2013 at 20:26 | Report abuse |
  16. Chantal

    My family moved to Montreal from Portland, Maine, when I was a kid. It didn't take long for me to pick up French, and now I make my living translating from French to English, mostly for banks and other Quebec-based companies that want to reach an anglo audience.

    I routinely switch between languages, sometimes in mid sentence, ususally because the word, term or expression that best galvanizes what I am trying to say just pops up in my head. I think of it as having two distinct language databases from which to choose, and Quebec French has the funniest expressions ever! I know linguist purists recoil at the idea of mixing languages, but anywhere you go in Montreal, you'll hear people mix their native tongues with French which makes for a very colourful if sometimes confusing cultural mosaic, instead of a melting pot. I also know a thing or two about language wars and my best advice is: don't start one. No one wins.

    I know this post strays from this article's subject, but after living in two languages, I think it would be difficult for me to go back to being unilingual. Being "bi" is so much better, even if it means having to think twice before I say anything when I go back to Maine. Vive la différence!

    January 9, 2013 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • 3rdCultureChildren

      I couldn't agree more with your statement, Chantal! My first language is Portuguese, Continental Portuguese, to be more specific, because I was taught by my mother, who sort of refused to let her mother language being lost in Brazil... Anyway, what you said about 'using other languages/databases for this or that expression' is so very true! There are words in English that I frequently use during conversations with Portuguese speakers, simply due to the fact that 'that particular expression' better represents what I'm trying to say.... 'know-how' doesn't exist in Portuguese, and it would take me/one at least 5 different words to express that thought... the same happens coming back to English... the famous 'Brazilian Portuguese' word 'Saudade' [the feeling of missing someone, the sadness of losing someone that left... the presence of the absents... and many other meanings!] doesn't exist in any other language... only in Portuguese... that said, it's good to be resourceful, and have 'bonus' languages to 'borrow expressions/word' from! In fact, I see it as an advantage, a gift to upcoming generations! Thank you for sharing your very positive experiences, Chantal!

      January 9, 2013 at 14:35 | Report abuse |
    • ChattySoul

      for 3rdCultureChildren: actually, that is not entirely true. I'm only talking about the word Saudade. I grew up in Romania, and I am fluent in Romanian. They also told me that the word "dor" is unique to the Romanian language, and there is no other language in the world that has something like it. When I learned Portuguese (in which I am not quite fluent, but I can read and understand the spoken language, having used it very-very little), I learned about Saudade, and its meaning is exactly, to the context, inflexion, extended meaning and everything you want the exact same thing as the Romanian "dor". It is true that Portuguese and Romanian are very closely related languages, but it proved to me that "dor" (and for that matter saudade) is NOT unique. I would be lost for words to translate that into German or English, but that's a different story. Just a fun fact between multi-linguals. :)

      January 9, 2013 at 15:40 | Report abuse |
  17. Venance

    This article is good as I read and how you have presented it i am from Tanzania.

    January 9, 2013 at 14:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Manny

    I'm a 50 years old mexican, and have always lived in a border city with California, wich has given me a strong influence of the american culture since I was a kid, and have found very helpful to learn another language to see different points of view about religion ,politics sports etc.My first language is spanish, and still hoping that one day I can be fluent bilingual,

    January 9, 2013 at 14:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. 3rdCultureChildren

    @ChattySoul – I understand your point... and agree with it, but what I was trying to bring up with the discussion was that, some languages have words that are so very particular, so unique in their meanings, what they represent to that culture; that, other languages, even the ones considered close to, would not have.... for the 'saudade' one, the discussion goes over the fact it can't be translated by another single word, anywhere else... i'm sure there are translations to other 'unique' words out there, but it goes beyond a grammatically correct option, but instead, talking about emotional meanings for certain words/expressions... Thanks for your points... lots of curious things among bi/multilinguals... it's such a great territory to explore! :o Take care!

    January 9, 2013 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lagunalady27

      This is why English is so full of words and expressions from other languages. If we can't capture the meaning in English, we pluck a word or phrase from some other culture. It is perhaps the only way Americans borrow from other cultures. It's a pity. We all have so much to gain from each other! Ever tasted Broetchen? Delicious and addictive...yum.

      January 9, 2013 at 20:31 | Report abuse |
  20. Candy

    Now there is even more reason for the illegals people coming here to learn the language of the land – ENGLISH. I should not have to learn their language in order to get a job even though it would enhance my brain. Right??

    January 9, 2013 at 16:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lagunalady27

      Right. Would not happen in France, Germany or any other country I have ever visited. But, I still think we short change our country and ourselves when we do not educate our children in several languages.

      We would not need remedial reading in high schools or "dumbbell English" in colleges, if all students became multi-lingual. We would rather pay for remedial classes, and destroy kids' egos, than pay for more teachers in elementary schools. Very short sighted!

      January 9, 2013 at 20:37 | Report abuse |
    • Exar Kun

      Riiiight, because speaking another language magically makes you "illegal".

      You must truly be a blissful person, as ignorant as you are.

      January 10, 2013 at 23:09 | Report abuse |
    • Rita

      Candy I have to agree with you. I was in Germany for a few years and did not expect them to learn my language but instead learned theirs. Upon fianally returning to my beloved country I felt as though I had gone to another nation. The Cuban thing happened and now every one was speaking a foreign language in MY country and had no problem speaking to each other in Spanish with me in their company. Some one else mentioned rude and I have to agree. If you can speak English you should do so if people who speak that language are present. This is America and we speak English.

      January 11, 2013 at 08:09 | Report abuse |
    • 3rdCultureChildren

      @Rita and @Candy – From the original article, quoted here: " "Lifelong bilinguals" were defined as people who are fluent in two languages, specifically those who spoke English and another language every day since age 10 or younger." The text is talking about the relationship between being bi/multilingual for several years, not about the 'need to speak this or that language for a specific job/task'; less so, any association with politics, as you mentioned throughout your comment(s)... That said, maybe it'd be a good suggestion [for you] to go back to the article and try to read it? It's possible you were a bit confused about 'where to place your comment', because they don't really relate to each other... maybe you're too tired and forgot what the main idea of the text was about? Lots of maybes, but it happens... The main idea is that being a lifelong bilingual has some positive results, and not simply encouraging people to go out and try to learn new languages as adults, in order to enhance their brains... Good luck on your attempts and have a great New Year!

      January 12, 2013 at 15:51 | Report abuse |
  21. Barinthus

    It's funny – all of those articles talking about positive benefits of bilingualism yet our society is eager to force one particular minority in US to become monolingual. I'm talking about the Deaf community – Deaf people are bilinguals (and in many cases multi-lingual) in terms of using both English and American Sign Language. Yes, believe it or not, American Sign Language is considered a full language in its rights. Keep this in mind if you ever read or hear about efforts to restrict or eliminate Deaf children's access to American Sign Language. Don't be a hypocrite.

    January 9, 2013 at 16:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. bborsky@aol.com

    ?

    January 9, 2013 at 17:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. LEO THE DUTCHMAN

    Yes , I am from the Netherlands.Now living in Canada. In the Netherlands , every person in Highschool has to learn English ,
    French and German . I have been using those languages all my life . I am 72 years young now , but I do not feel that I am
    smarter than other people .

    January 9, 2013 at 17:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lagunalady27

      It isn't a question of being smarter. It is staying "sharp" as we age. You seem to be that!

      January 9, 2013 at 20:40 | Report abuse |
    • Jorge

      Come to Augusta GA, Leo, where folks speak a barely intelligible FoghornLeghornPootyTangese that passes for American English and the high school graduation rate is about 60%, you'll feel REALLY smart here...

      January 15, 2013 at 09:25 | Report abuse |
  24. blessedgeek

    "bilinguals may have more efficient brains".

    I was already reading this in the 1970s. Studies then had already confirmed. What is this with the language "may have"?

    January 9, 2013 at 22:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Mauro

    It's funny how anything that has to do with foreign the first think that comes out of you peoples mouth is Mexican, shame on all you Americans!!

    January 9, 2013 at 23:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Vic Torino

    I am trilingual: English, Esperanto, Antartican. My brain is confused.

    January 10, 2013 at 13:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. flundergunder

    so ridiculous all this name calling. Of course English is the main language here as it is worldwide for communications. But everyone should have to learn another language or two. I speak German.,French, English and Italian fluently, Latin well enough to find it the mother of so many tongues. It's such a help. Yeah and I understand Swedish and Dutch . Makes me enjoy the world we are living it so much more. More power to multlingualism!

    January 10, 2013 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Harold Simmons

    Looks like Terry is a single language speaking person.

    January 11, 2013 at 00:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. James

    American education is so behind, at a minimum all children should be learning BOTH French and Spanish, secondary being one of: German, Latin, Portuguese, Hindi, Greek, or mandarin, or lesser used major languages like Swedish, Russian, Afrikaans, Italian, or dutch

    January 11, 2013 at 00:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Lou

    I have been all over the world and heard the same joke: What do you call a person who speaks 3 languages? Trilingual. What do you call a person who speaks 2 languages? Bilingual. What do you call a person who speaks only 1 language? American.

    January 11, 2013 at 07:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Jake

    When I was in school I took French and did quite well. However, since that time, a few years ago, I have no reason to continue to speak French and if you don't use it you lose it. So why bother? Do I believe that it made me more intelligent. NAH

    January 11, 2013 at 08:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Nana Bowman

    There're many tribal languages in India. There're more than two thousand dialects in China. More than one billion people in the two countries combined can speak more than one dialect and/or language. In Europe most people can speak English and their native tongues.

    January 11, 2013 at 10:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Nana Bowman

    President Obama can speak more than one language. Was there any other U. S. president who could speak more than one language?

    January 11, 2013 at 10:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jake

      GWB could not speak English – He could barely form a sentence and yet he made it 8 years in the hightest position in America. Makes one wonder if our president really needs be educated.

      January 11, 2013 at 13:41 | Report abuse |
    • Jorge

      Jake, every president in history has had a facet of the nation that he most notably represented. Washington represented American patriotism, Lincoln represented American tenacity in adversity and sacrifice, Obama has represented American equality of opportunity. I shudder to think what Bush has represented.

      January 15, 2013 at 09:32 | Report abuse |
    • J'aime M. Maigret

      Martin van Buren's first language was Dutch. Both Roosevelts spoke French. TR studied in Dresden and could read German although he didn't speak it fluently. Hoover knew Mandarin, and Jefferson was able to read 5 or 6 languages. Bill Clinton's German was good enough that in Berlin he delivered a speech in that language.

      January 15, 2013 at 18:39 | Report abuse |
  34. Nana Bowman

    I'm a proud naturalized American who're bilingual. Nana Mouskouri, the retired Greek songbird who's been French resident since 1960's, probably the only singer are fluent in five languages. Queen Elizabeth II can speak French but I don't know about Prince Charles and William.

    January 11, 2013 at 11:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Nana Bowman

    Latin is a dead language because people do not communicate with one another in such language verbally and literally any more.

    January 11, 2013 at 12:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Nana Bowman

    2300 year ago in China a tyrant unified six other feudal kingdoms bloodily and became first Emperor for centralized China. In that time unifying all dialects was impossible, so he decided al least unified written language. What're the benefits for being fluent in more than one written language?

    January 11, 2013 at 13:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. imuneek

    I speak 8 or 9 languages, but my brain isn't efficient enough to remember whether it was 8 or 9 last count. I can say "Where the heck did I leave my keys?" in about 7 or so languages, and in at least 12 earth languages I can count to ten... see... ichi, ni, san, chi... ooh, shinyquelindo!

    January 11, 2013 at 18:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Lela

    I think it is a wonderful way of exercising your brain by being able to speak several languages.

    I remember being totally surprised when I actually began to dream in my second language.
    Nowadays I love being able to listen to news reports and programs and answering or questioning back in another language. You constantly keep your brain active. It is a fun way of staying sharp.

    January 17, 2013 at 23:58 | Report abuse | Reply
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  40. Mom2R

    Interesting study. My husband is Swiss and I'm American and we intend to raise our son bilingual in English and German (Swiss/German). We will also probably encourage him to learn either Spanish or French once he is in elementary school (he's only 6 months). My husband is fully fluent in both Swiss German (his native language) and English.

    January 28, 2013 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Jesse

    Todos aprenden Español porque de la manera que este pais sigue, alguien mas tomara el mando oh Chinese, buena suerte a todos.......yo naci en este pais y hablo perfecto el ingles, solo queria molestar a las personas que todo lo toman mal, el ser bilingual is a privalage be proud of who you are......and usen su brain ....

    March 6, 2013 at 22:19 | Report abuse | Reply
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