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"Being bilingual may keep your mind young"

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  • Don Osborn
    Here s another item on the long term effects of bilingualism. (Fwd from MultiEd-L)... DZO Being bilingual may keep your mind young
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 18, 2005
      Here's another item on the long term effects of bilingualism. (Fwd
      from MultiEd-L)... DZO


      Being bilingual may keep your mind young
      http://msnbc.msn.com/id/5209379/
      Juggling two languages as a child can slow mental decline


      WASHINGTON - Two languages are better than one when it comes to
      keeping the brain young, Canadian researchers reported Monday.

      Older adults who grew up bilingual had quicker minds when tested than
      people who spoke only one language, the researchers found. They
      showed less of the natural decline associated with aging.

      The tests of people who grew up speaking English and either Tamil or
      French suggested that having to juggle two languages keeps the brain
      elastic and may help prevent some of the mental slowing caused by
      age, the researchers said.

      Writing in the journal Psychology and Aging, Ellen Bialystok of York
      University in Canada and colleagues said they tested 104 monolingual
      and bilingual middle-aged adults aged 30 to 59 and 50 older adults
      aged 60 to 88.

      Faster on tests
      They used a test called the Simon Task, which measures reaction time
      for cognitive tasks, such as recognizing on which part of a computer
      screen a colored square appears. Both younger and older bilinguals
      were faster on the test, Bialystok reported.

      "We compared groups of people who, as far as we could tell, are
      exactly the same," Bialystok said in a telephone interview.

      "They have all had the same amount of education. They all scored
      exactly the same on cognitive tests. They all perform the same on
      memory tests. And they also score the same on tests in English
      vocabulary."

      The difference was that half the people grew up with either French or
      Tamil spoken at home and English outside. They all spoke both
      languages every day from childhood.

      Changes in brain processing People who were proficient in a second
      language acquired in school were not included in the study to keep
      the effects clear.

      "It¡¯s not a facility. It¡¯s not a talent," Bialystok said. Rather it
      was a case of being forced from a young age to function in two
      languages.

      Bialystok said her earlier study with children suggested these
      circumstances force a change in the way the brain processes
      information.

      "In the monolingual group the differences between the younger adults
      and the older adults were in line with (the decline seen) in previous
      research," Bialystok said.

      "In the older bilingual they slowed down significantly less,
      dramatically less."

      Bialystok has not tested people who acquired languages later in life
      but believes learning new languages can only be good for the brain.

      "Language is always good -- more language is always better," she
      said.

      Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or
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      prior written consent of Reuters.
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