Speaking two or more languages rather than just one has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. Scientists have begun to show the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people. Being bilingual can make you think better. Multi language ability can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shield against dementia in old age.
There is ample evidence that in a bilingual’s brain both language systems are active even when a person is using only one language at that moment. Conflict from multi language interference isn’t so much a handicap as a blessing in disguise. It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, giving the mind a workout which strengthens its cognitive muscles.
Multilinguals seem to be more adept than monolinguals at solving certain kinds of mental puzzles. Psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin-Rhee, found in a 2004 study that bilingual and monolingual preschoolers asked to sort by shapes with conflicting color inteference did better than monolingual kids.
The collective evidence from a number of studies suggests that the bilingual experience improves the brain’s so-called executive function which is a command system directing the attention processes we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks.
Processes including ignoring distractions to stay focused, switching attention willfully from one thing to another, and holding information in mind, such as remembering a sequence of directions while driving, are more developed in bi-or multi-linguals.
Bilingualism’s effects also extend into the twilight years. In a recent study of 44 elderly Spanish-English bilinguals scientists led by a neuropsychologist at the University of California, San Diego, 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.
Nobody ever doubted the power of language. But who would have imagined that the words we hear and the sentences we speak might be leaving such a deep imprint?
Information from this article came from writer Yudhijit Bhattacharjee in the New York Times recently.
Harriet Cochran Murray, Director of Cochran Real Estate, is a seasoned Real Estate professional both here in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and in the United States. Harriet has served in many capacities as a board member for the local Real Estate Association AMPI (AMPI is the national association of real estate professionals). She is also a member of FIABCI, NAR in the United States and a proud member of CIPS (Certified International Property Specialist), a designation of NAR. Harriet’s expertise and experience in the Real Estate and especially in the Mexican market makes her Viewpoint blog articles both informational and intriguing. Harriet is a Buyer’s Agent who specializes in getting the best deal on the right property for her clients. Click HERE to view Cochran Real Estate Listings.