Being bilingual and regularly using two languages can sharpen the mind, help with multitasking and even stave off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. This is according to the work of cognitive neuroscientist Ellen Bialystok who was recently interviewed by the New York Times.
According to Bialystok and research carried out at her university – York University, Toronto – it was found initially that bilingual and monolingual children processed language differently. It was found that bilingual children were able to ignore unimportant information and concentrate more clearly on the important, allowing them to analyse language more deeply and accurately.
It is thought that the regular use of two languages by the brain trains it to focus more readily on relevant material and ignore things that would otherwise be distracting for a monolingual brain.
Incredibly, it was also found after researching 400 Alzheimer’s patients that on average, bilingual patients had developed the disease a whole six years later than their monolingual counterparts. It is thought that bilingual brains are able to cope with the effects of the disease for longer.
But don’t get carried away just yet – that small amount of French you picked up in school is probably of little use unless you use it on a daily basis in order to maintain your bilingual brain. Our solution? Get travelling!