Being Bilingual Is Great For The Brain

The New York Times has an interview with a brain scientist who’s been specifically studying people that speak more than one language, fluently. Meaning, your high school Spanish doesn’t count, but if you speak Turkish with the bus driver every day, that’s good. So for those that are truly bilingual, the benefits come from the fact that they’re always juggling around two languages in their head, and the brain gets really good at tuning one out and focusing on the language that matters at the moment.

Einstein was bilingual

However, this benefit extends to anything else the brain is doing, and these lucky individuals are really good at tuning out all kinds of stuff that doesn’t matter — the noise of the problem — and are better equipped to focus on the relevant data. Monolinguals on the other hand, would take longer to evaluate what’s going on in a distracting environment. In fact, they did a study asking people to multitask while driving and the bilinguals’ driving performance dropped less than the normal folks’. Another interesting study showed that Alzheimer’s showed up about five years later in bilingual patients, not because they didn’t have it, but because they were able to better cope with the loss of brain function.

What the article doesn’t address but would be very interesting to see is, how the digital natives do versus bilingual people. A lot of kids that have grown up in the past couple of decades have been constantly and voluntarily exposed to massive amounts of media, while having to perform worthwhile tasks. For example, doing homework while listening to music and chatting on the Internet with a best friend, and every so often getting interrupted by email and text messages. It seems like that kind of juggling could give speaking two languages a run for its money, making their brains also excellent at focusing on the relevant stuff at hand.

From The New York Times, via Lifehacker

1 Comments.

  1. How The Brain Becomes Bilingual | Apt46 - pingback on October 12, 2011 at 5:40 pm

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