"Being bilingual may keep your mind young"
- Here's another item on the long term effects of bilingualism. (Fwd
from MultiEd-L)... DZO
Being bilingual may keep your mind young
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
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
Bialystok said her earlier study with children suggested these
circumstances force a change in the way the brain processes
"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,
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
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