New research is showing that bilingualism may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by as much as four and a half years, compared to people who only speak one language. In the November 2013 issue of the Neurology medical journal from the American Academy of Neurology, scientists have published results that prove speaking a second language improves development in areas of the brain associated with attention and executive function, even in people that cannot read. The results are showing that these bilingual subjects have the advantage of additional guards against Alzheimer’s and dementia when compared to monolingual subjects, despite factors involving gender, occupation, level of education, and whether or not the subjects reside in rural versus urban areas.
What do bilingual speakers have that monolingual speakers do not?
Study results are claiming that bilingual speakers can outperform monolingual speakers in certain mental areas, such as the increased ability to sort relevant information from non-relevant information. Subjects who speak more than one language seem to be better at multitasking than those who speak only one language.
It has been previously thought that teaching children more than one language would cause confusion in relation to choosing which language they should use to communicate. Recent results are demonstrating that not only is this previous hypothesis untrue, but way off base. In fact, bilingualism research is demonstrating that people who speak more than one language showed an advantage in the performance of certain mental skills over those who do not. This is not meant to declare that bilingual speakers are more intelligent than monolingual speakers, just that bilingual speakers’ brains are using different and more varied neural pathways to process the same information as monolingual speakers. However, research is consistently showing that people who speak more than one language are giving their brain a better workout.
In fact, children who can communicate in more than one language are more often than not better at multi-tasking and prioritising than children who can communicate in only one language.
Even though these studies are new and continually evolving, the resulting evidence is overwhelming in that people who are able to speak more than one language are showing a significant delay in developing symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia.