I knew the things would come in handy:

Being Bilingual Could Protect Your Brain
–Robert Preidt
MONDAY, June 14 (HealthDayNews) — Being fluent in two languages could protect against age-related cognitive decline, says a study in the June issue of Psychology and Aging.
Researchers from York University in Toronto compared the results of 154 bilingual and monolingual middle-aged and older adults on the Simon Task, which measures reaction time and aspects of cognitive function that decline with age.
All the bilingual people in the study had used two languages every day since the age of 10.
The study found that both older and younger bilingual people performed better than those who spoke just one language. Being bilingual offers widespread benefits across a range of complex cognitive tasks, the authors concluded.

(Thanks, Bonnie!)


  1. One wonders what potentially confounding variables (education, socioeconomic status, income, etc.) they controlled for. The abstract doesn’t say.

  2. As a stunted monolinguist I would just like to point out that similar benefits have been found to arise from knitting.

  3. But things go downhill if you know more than 2 languages, to the point where if you know 7 of them your very life is in danger.

  4. Uh oh…

  5. I wonder what degree of proficiency is necessary, in their study, to qualify as “bilingual.” Will college French do the trick, or do you need to grow up bilingual (or somewhere in between)? I know that there have been studies showing that different parts of the brain are activated among people who gained bilingualism later in life, while people who grow up bilingual activate the same parts of their brain for both languages. So it seems that if we are talking about the health of the brain it would be relevant to know this information.

  6. Zackary:

    All the participants in both groups
    had bachelor’s degrees and shared similar middle-class socioeconomic backgrounds.

  7. I remember reading somewhere that learning two languages pre-school can hinder academic performance. So if you’re going to hot-house your kids linguistically, wait till they’re ten. Or teach them to knit instead. That way you won’t get footballs kicked through your living-room window.

  8. I believe it. As an adult, nothing except studying and practicing music has engaged my mind so completely as the intense study of French I’ve been undergoing recently. I can literally “feel” my mind working in different ways, even from its normal writer-ly pathways, and it occured to me that this must really healthy brain-activity. Thanks for the confirmation, maybe I’ll go study some new verbs…

  9. I’ll add it to my list. By my calculation, a bilingual, non-smoking vegetarian who eats a lot of cabbage, squash, garlic, tomatoes, and fish and drinks two glasses of wine a day will live to be about 137 on the average.

  10. Which means the rest of us have to endure his/her halitosis for 137 years.

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