It turns out that speaking more than one language actually makes you smarter. Researchers are showing that learning more than one language changes the way the brain functions, increasing cognition.
Even babies who are exposed to two languages show increased cognition over babies who hear just one language. And the benefits remain well into our later years. Seniors who speak more than one language experience illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer's later than those who speak just one.
Yudhijit Bhattacharjee wrote about the findings for Sunday Review at The New York Times in Why Bilinguals Are Smarter.
Excerpts from Bhattacharjee's article:
- "The collective evidence from a number of such studies suggests that the bilingual experience improves the brain's so-called executive function -- a command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks."
- "The key difference between bilinguals and monolinguals may be more basic: a heightened ability to monitor the environment."
- "In a study comparing German-Italian bilinguals with Italian monolinguals on monitoring tasks, Mr. Costa and his colleagues found that the bilingual subjects not only performed better, but they also did so with less activity in parts of the brain involved in monitoring, indicating that they were more efficient at it."
- "Bilingualism's effects also extend into the twilight years. In a recent study of 44 elderly Spanish-English bilinguals, scientists ... found that individuals with a higher degree of bilingualism ... were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer's disease: the higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the age of onset."
It may be time to brush off my Spanish, French, and Norwegian, none of which I can speak any longer. What about you? Which languages do you speak?
Help with ESL: