The benefits of speaking more than one language

An arti­cle in the Wall Street Jour­nal today, Build­ing a More Resilient Brain, reviews the work of Dr. Bia­lystok and her col­leagues on the ben­e­fits that bilin­gual­ism brings to the brain. Anoth­er great exam­ple of neuroplasticity.

… over time, reg­u­lar­ly speak­ing more than one lan­guage appears to strength­en skills that boost the brain’s so-called cog­ni­tive reserve, a capac­i­ty to work even when stressed or dam­aged. This build-up of cog­ni­tive reserve appears to help bilin­gual peo­ple as they age.

… the process of speak­ing two or more lan­guages appears to enable peo­ple to devel­op skills to bet­ter cope with the ear­ly symp­toms of mem­o­ry-rob­bing dis­eases, includ­ing Alzheimer’s. […] the advan­tages of bilin­gual­ism are thought to be relat­ed to a brain func­tion known as inhibito­ry or cog­ni­tive con­trol: the abil­i­ty to stop pay­ing atten­tion to one thing and focus on some­thing else

Com­ments: What if I only speak one lan­guage? Would it be ben­e­fi­cial to start learn­ing one now? Would I need to speak it every­day? Would it help me built reserve? Unfor­tu­nate­ly sci­ence does not have evi­dence-based answers to these ques­tions yet… But learn­ing a new lan­guage fol­lows the recipe for a good men­tal exer­cise as out­lined in The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: Vari­ety, Chal­lenge and Novelty.

  • Vari­ety: to stim­u­late mul­ti­ple func­tions of the brain.
  • Chal­lenge:  to avoid routine.
  • Nov­elty:  to stim­u­late parts of the brain such as the pre­frontal cor­tex that are most­ly exer­cised when we learn to mas­ter new cog­ni­tive challenges.

As such, learn­ing a new lan­guage is a great men­tal exer­cise. How­ev­er it can­not be the mag­ic answer to every­thing. As you know, brain main­te­nance requires a mul­ti-faceted approach com­pris­ing at least a vari­ety of brain stim­u­la­tion, bal­anced nutri­tion, stress man­age­ment, social­iza­tion and phys­i­cal exercise.

Relat­ed post: Men­tal stim­u­la­tion: build­ing a Brain/ Cog­ni­tive Reserve with nov­el­ty, vari­ety and challenge

English About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.

English About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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