Saturday, November 23, 2013

New Study Shows Brain Benefits Of Bilingualism

The largest study so far to ask whether speaking two languages might delay the onset of dementia symptoms in bilingual patients as compared to monolingual patients has reported a robust result. Bilingual patients suffer dementia onset an average of 4.5 years later than those who speak only a single language.
Only when I read the research report itself, though, published in the journal Neurology and written by Suvarna Alladi and 7 co-authors, did I realize fully the brilliance of conducting this study in Hyderabad, India.
That choice of location, I believe, lends extra credibility to the study's results.
Here's why. India, as the researchers note, is a nation of linguistic diversity. In the Hyderabad region, a language called Telugu is spoken by the majority Hindu group, and another called Dakkhini by the minority Muslim population. Hindi and English are also commonly spoken in formal contexts, including at school. Most people who grow up in the region, then, are bilingual, and routinely exposed to at least three languages.
The sounds of multiple languages swirling around me when I visit New York or Paris are enchanting, and I enjoy discussing with bilinguals the claims that switching between languages allows different personality traits to emerge within a single individual.
Being bilingual opens up new worlds of global connection and understanding, and almost certainly allows some degree of flexibility in personal expression, too.
Now we know, more concretely and convincingly than before, that there's a brain benefit to bilingualism, too.

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