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People Who Speak Two Languages Have Healthier Brains

by : Niamh Shackleton on : 24 Oct 2020 15:51
People Who Speak Two Languages Have Healthier BrainsPeople Who Speak Two Languages Have Healthier BrainsPexels/Warner Bros.

It might be time to get your high school Spanish books back out because being bilingual can keep your brain healthy. 

Apparently speaking two languages can help the brain’s aging process with a study showing that bilingual pensioners developed Alzheimer’s four to five years later than their monolingual counterparts.

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Ellen Bialystok of York University in Toronto, who conducted this research, claims speaking more than one language causes your brain to ‘rewire’.

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She explained, as per CNN, ‘The more you use another language, the better you get at it. Well, that’s not surprising, but along with that, the more you use two languages, the more your brain subtly rewires.’

Bialystok continued, ‘The effect it has is, I believe, is on the attention system. This is what cognition is, knowing what you need to attend to, and blocking out the rest.’

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While it may make a person’s brain ‘healthier’, Tamar Gollan of the University of California San Diego Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, homed in on the fact that being bilingual cannot prevent Alzheimer’s happening all together. As it stands, there’s no known cause of the disease, therefore no way of knowing how to prevent it.

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He said:

Bilingualism doesn’t prevent you from getting Alzheimer’s disease; it doesn’t prevent brain damage from happening if you have the disease. What it does is it makes you continue to function, even in the face of having damage to the brain. You can imagine an athlete with an injury crossing the finish line, even though they’re injured.

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In regards to the benefits of bilingualism keeping your brain active, Gollan says it’s because a person’s brain has to work harder as you can’t turn a language off and on. He explained, ‘When you’re bilingual. You can’t turn one language off, so you’re constantly having to face choices that monolingual speakers don’t have to make. So in addition, you have to ‘work hard’ [at it].’

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Bialystok believes the longer you’re bilingual for, the more changes your brain will see and that using two languages ‘reorganises’ your brain.

She said:

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The longer you’re bilingual, the more the changes. The earlier you start being bilingual, the more the changes. The more intense your bilingual experience is on a daily basis, the more the changes.

Basically, being bilingual won’t just look good on your Tinder profile, but could help you out in later life, too.

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

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Niamh Shackleton

Niamh Shackleton is a pint sized person and journalist at UNILAD. After studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Salford, she did a year at Caters News Agency as a features writer in Birmingham before deciding that Manchester is (arguably) one of the best places in the world, and therefore moved back up north. She's also UNILAD's unofficial crazy animal lady.

Topics: Life, Science

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CNN
  1. CNN

    Bilingualism is good medicine for the brain