New Study Shows Brain Benefits Of Bilingualism
by BARBARA J. KING — November 14, 2013 3:59 PM
The largest study so far to ask whether speaking two languages might delay the onset of dementia symptoms in bilingual patients as compared to monolingual patients has reported a robust result. Bilingual patients suffer dementia onset an average of 4.5 years later than those who speak only a single language.
While knowledge of a protective effect of bilingualism isn’t entirely new, the present study significantly advances scientists’ knowledge. Media reports emphasize the size of its cohort: 648 patients from a university hospital’s memory clinic, including 391 who were bilingual. It’s also touted as the first study to reveal that bilingual people who are illiterate derive the same benefit from speaking two languages as do people who read and write. It also claims to show that the benefit applies not only to Alzheimer’s sufferers but also people with frontotemporal and vascular dementia.
Being bilingual opens up new worlds of global connection and understanding, and almost certainly allows some degree of flexibility in personal expression, too.
Now we know, more concretely and convincingly than before, that there’s a brain benefit to bilingualism, too.