home
RSS
2 languages make your brain buff
February 18th, 2011
01:44 PM ET

2 languages make your brain buff

If you had any doubts about exposing your child - or yourself - to a foreign language, there's more evidence than ever that being bilingual has enormous benefits for your brain.

Scientists presented their research supporting this idea Friday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science  annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

As the human body begins its natural decline in old age, bilinguals seem to maintain better cognitive function, said Ellen Bialystok of York University in Toronto, Ontario. This is the case even for people with dementia. Bialystok and colleagues have studied many Alzheimer's patients, both monolinguals and bilinguals. They found that bilinguals were on average four to five years older than monolinguals at comparable points of neurological impairment.

Once Alzheimer's disease begins to compromise the brain, it appears that bilinguals can continue to function even though there’s damaged tissue, she said.

So what's going on? One theory is that language learning is an example of "cognitive reserve." It something that keeps the mind active in the same way as puzzles and games do, and works toward compensating for the build-up of dementia-causing pathology in the brain, Bialystok said.

In terms of starting language learning in middle or old age, the likelihood of becoming truly fluent in a new tongue is low, but it seems that every little bit helps in preventing cognitive decline, she said. And proficiency may be more important than age of acquisition, said Judith Kroll, researcher at Pennsylvania State University, before the conference.

Bilinguals are also better than monolinguals at multitasking, Kroll said. Juggling their languages helps bilinguals ignore irrelevant information and prioritize tasks better than those who only can only speak on tongue, she has found in her research. That makes sense considering that when a bilingual person speaks one language, the other language is still potentially active. That means that speakers of two languages are constantly inhibiting one language in favor of another, which perhaps enhances their overall attentional skills.

Why is it so hard for adults to learn a new language, compared with kids? The answer might not lie entirely in the brain. The social, educational, and other circumstantial conditions are different when an adult gets exposure to language, Bialystok said. As a child, learning a language is pretty much all you do. Adults can't devote as much time or attention to the experience of picking up a new tongue.

"It’s a change we can deal with as adults if there’s sufficient time and opportunity," she said.

Are there any downsides to being bilingual? Babies exposed to two languages throughout pregnancy, or who hear two languages in their first days of life, don’t confuse their languages, said Janet Werker of the University of British Columbia. The scientific evidence suggests bilingual and monolingual kids have similar language development milestones; it appears that children learning two languages do not experience delays in this regard generally.

There is, however, some research suggesting that the competition that’s produced by this mental juggling may introduce a delay in processing. But it’s so small that it’s not something that would be noticeable consciously, Kroll said. It appears that the benefits of being bilingual outweigh the costs.

What are you waiting for? Check out these resources for learning a new language online.


soundoff (380 Responses)
  1. ClarkTauts

    5yfuv op2kg v9ko

    February 28, 2021 at 12:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. ClarkTauts

    3aswx 9uvnr j5bi

    February 28, 2021 at 20:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. ClarkTauts

    1ybup e1nql x67c

    March 1, 2021 at 08:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Camila Locsin

    Hi there! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any issues with hackers? My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing months of hard work due to no backup. Do you have any solutions to stop hackers?

    https://proxyti.com/buy/200-private-proxies

    March 2, 2021 at 03:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Brantkia

    Thailand is top target to the

    THAILAND topped the list for Irish globetrotters in the niche exotic market in 2010. India and Vietnam accompanied closely behind, Making east Asia and India firm favourites for the "running Irish" yr after, within the caribbean Medical Bureau said.

    Brazil came fourth on its list of top selling destinations for Irish Thai dating people seeking inoculations, followed by Cambodia, Argentina, Laos, down under, Peru additionally Malaysia, The TMB said in its Top 10 marketing.

    "yr after over 20,000 people visited us at within the caribbean Medical Bureau, Pre and post their trips, Medical representative Dr Graham Fry said. "We're seeing an increasing number of people travelling through South America, With long trips of three to six months conventional.

    "east Asia is, obviously, Popular as it's on learn how to Australia,

    weighed against 2009, The top four ports of call remain unchanged, But have been some surprises, The TMB considered.

    Australia dropped from fifth hottest-selling in 2009, To eighth city, Argentina jumped into sixth place for 2010, Having place eight in 2009. Malaysia entered the Top 10 for the first time and Cambodia joined the Top Five, After utilizing at sixth place in 2008/2009.

    March 5, 2021 at 05:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Soo Pederzani

    https://www.electricpercolatorcoffeepot.com/10-top-coffee-bloggers/

    March 6, 2021 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Leave a Reply to carama3


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Advertisement
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.