Speaking a Second Language Could Keep You from Getting Dementia

Illustration for article titled Speaking a Second Language Could Keep You from Getting Dementia

Wait, speaking multiple languages keeps your brain young? Goddamnit. The closest I ever came to learning a second language is that my mom speaks passable Norwegian when she's drunk (I suppose I'm glad my childhood wasn't one long Drunkmomwegian immersion program), which means that I am impenetrably, painfully monolingual. Plus I'm 30 years old at this point, so it's unlikely I'll ever master anything more complicated than the instructions for my Jack LaLanne Juicer. (Although I DID get straight As in high school Spanish, so if you guys want to come over and watch Destinos with me, I can hella keep you current on Ramón, Carlos, y Juan. Y Mercedes.)

But now, when it's too late to fix myself because I am no longer a sponge-brained genius-baby—NOW I find out that being an English-only simpleton has repercussions beyond just accidentally ordering a weird yak sausage doused in flaming lamp oil because you can't read the menu??? (True story.) GODDAMNIT. Goddamnit, I say.

A new study in the Journal of Neuroscience found that senior citizens who regularly spoke more than one language are faster at completing tasks than their monolingual compatriots:

The study comprised two experiments that included 110 adults between 60 and 68 years of age, who underwent brain imaging test in addition to cognitive flexibility test. While both monolingual and bilingual participants were able to complete the tasks, the ones who were bilingual were able to do so quickly.

Brain imaging also revealed how bilingual individuals used less energy than monolingual seniors as they performed a task. Previous research stated that being bilingual helped protect the brain from age-related disease.

Apparently, a study published last year in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences shows that speaking two languages helps delay the onset of Alzheimer's.


Welp. Hopefully the fact that I still remember all the words to "Chicas de Hoy" will count for something. After all, nuestros sueños son sueños que podemos hacer realidad, you guys.

Bilingual Seniors Stay Sharp, Says Study [IBT]

Photo credit: diego_cervo / Stockfresh.

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Kat Callahan

I'm bilingual, but I had to really the force my second language choice. I speak English and Japanese, but going to school is North Texas, I took French or Spanish. My spanish is nonexistent, my French is useless for anything other than reading or listening. I tested it recently and had a perfectly good conversation where the other person spoke only French... but I still had to answer in English.

Instead I've lived in Japan for years now speaking the second language which everyone told me was going to be absolutely useless, and I forced myself to study on my own (to the detriment of my French and the consternation of my French teachers and high school principal). Funny how that works. :/