In an article originally published at Nautilus on May 13, 2016, community editor Emilie Reas discusses emerging research showing that bilingualism may prevent cognitive decline in old age and stave off dementia. Read the full post here.
Parlez-vous francais? If you answered yes, then you’re well on your way to enjoying the many benefits of bilingualism. Speaking both English and French, for example, can enrich your cultural experiences in multilingual destinations like Belgium, Morocco, or Egypt, and broaden your access to books, music, and films.
But the benefits of speaking another language aren’t limited to just cultural perks. “Studies have shown that bilingual individuals consistently outperform their monolingual counterparts on tasks involving executive control,” says Ellen Bialystok, a cognitive psychologist at York University. In other words, speaking more than one language can improve your ability to pay attention, plan, solve problems, or switch between tasks (like making sure you don’t miss your freeway exit while attending to your kids in the back seat). You may think it’s just higher intelligence that underlies these benefits, but evidence suggests otherwise. A 2014 study, for example, showed that those who learned a second language, in youth or adulthood, had better executive functions than those who didn’t, even after accounting for childhood IQ.
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/45909111@N00/