When I was preparing my first book on bilingualism some thirty years ago, I was confronted with opposing views on the effect of bilingualism on children. Studies in the first half of the last century appeared to show that bilingual children had lower IQs and that they were outperformed by monolingual children in both verbal and nonverbal intelligence tests. Midway through the last century, the opinions changed rather suddenly and researchers found that bilingualism was, after all, a real asset for the child.
Mounting research suggests that a side effect of bilingualism may be a brain that is more adept at navigating cognitive decline, especially as we age. To truly reap the health benefits of a bilingual brain, you need to Effect of bilingualism fluency throughout your life, says cognitive neuroscientist Ellen Bialystokwho has spent her career pioneering research in this realm.
Q How does learning a second language change the way you think? Brains are always changing, and this is a normal, ongoing part of our cognitive life. Now, if we spend a lot of our time or energy doing a specific kind of thing, then there may be very specific effects of that. Using language is one of the things we do more than anything else in our lives.
We use languages all our waking hours and maybe during some of our nonwaking hours, too. What happens when you use a language?
You probably think that the best way to build a brain that could handle two languages would be to put a sort of switch mechanism in. If you are bilingual or trilingual, then all the languages that you speak fluently are always active.
They never turn off. Bilingual brains learn how to select and pay attention much faster, more efficiently, and using fewer resources than monolingual brains. That can turn out to be a big deal in the long term. Q Is this different for children than it is for adults?
What does bilingualism mean for your brain as you age? A We see it in the first year of life even before children speak: Infants in bilingual environments pay attention to their environment differently.
It is kind of interesting but not terribly important. They can do them faster. In adulthood, the selection processes can also lead to better performance on some tasks. You can solve a little selection problem faster or make fewer errors on a task that requires selection.
The big potential payoff is: Over a lifetime of using these different processes for selecting and attending, bilingual brains are able to do those problems with less effort.
In older age, those selection processes begin to slow down, making it hard for older adults to do things like multitask, because they need to use the very effortful front part of their brain to do the multitasking. Our research shows that bilinguals can do those problems—multitasking and so on—without having to call in the very effortful front part of their brain, leaving open resources to help out when needed.
For that reason, we find a significant delay in cognitive decline in bilingual older adults, up to and including the point of dementia. But because once they have dementia, their brains are able to function in spite of it for a longer time.
They can carry on even when dementia is affecting their brains because their brains have these resources to help them out and maintain higher levels of cognition. Symptoms generally show up at a later stage of neurodegeneration in bilinguals.
|Multilingualism - Wikipedia||We discuss recent evidence that bilingualism is associated with a delay in the onset of symptoms of dementia. Cognitive reserve is a crucial research area in the context of an aging population; the possibility that bilingualism contributes to cognitive reserve is therefore of growing importance as populations become increasingly diverse.|
The bilingual brain is able to compensate and continue to function kind of normally, even though the neuropathology is already in their brains. The medications are not very effective, so finding a way for people to function normally in the early stages of the disease can make a big difference.
Postponing symptoms means postponing the need for the health care system, medication, hospitals. Bilingualism is not what we call a categorical variable: Bilingualism is a complex continuum of experiences.
That means that this is difficult research to do, because you have to figure out what criteria you mean for bilingual.
One simple way of answering the question is bilingualism means you have the capacity to carry on a conversation with greater or lesser fluency in more than one language. The way I like to answer the question is by saying the more, the better. If you have been bilingual for a longer period of your life, then the effects are larger than the effects for people who are more recently bilingual.Mar 18, · Being bilingual makes you smarter and can have a profound effect on your brain.
scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to. “Bilingualism serves as enrichment for the brain and has real consequences when it comes to executive function, specifically attention and working memory,” Kraus says.
The team next plans to explore whether learning a language later in life can bring similar benefits. bilingualism has detrimental effect on personality which leads to tension and emotional lability. It is sometimes stated that there is a conflict between the child’s bilingualism and .
Mar 18, · Being bilingual makes you smarter and can have a profound effect on your brain. scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are . Building on earlier evidence showing a beneficial effect of bilingualism on children’s cognitive development, we review recent studies using both behavioral and neuroimaging methods to examine the effects of bilingualism on cognition in adulthood and explore possible mechanisms for these effects.
Previous research with older children has shown that the effect of bilingualism is not found on all measures involving inhibition (Carlson & Meltzoff, ; Martin-Rhee & Bialystok, ), with the largest group differences being found on tasks in which the correct response is embedded in a misleading context and the conceptual demands are.