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Studies Show Bilingualism Increases Cognitive Function  — an article on the Smart Living Network
January 15, 2013 at 8:38 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Studies Show Bilingualism Increases Cognitive Function

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I studied French in high school and college, and although I fancied myself bilingual, I wasn’t, and I’m still not, although I loved learning the language. Now I wish I had pursued this endeavor with more persistence.

Recent studies show a children from bilingual homes are more attentive, focused and generally, sharper than those from a monolingual home. Experts believe switching between languages provides these children with more prefrontal cortex exercise, exercise in the area of brain associated with highest levels of thinking and awareness. Simply, learning more than one languages makes you smarter than you would have been if you had learned only one.

Running Interference?

This view of bilingualism is significantly different from that which prevailed through much of the 20th century - that having to learn a second language slowed cognitive development in bilingual children down and actually made them less successful in school. This stems from the fact that bilingual children do tend to speak later and scans of the brain do show that thinking in two languages can cause conflicts. However, we now know that muscles ache before they grow, this activity strengthens the brain in the long run.

Bilingualism and Executive Functions

Specifically, researchers believe bilingualism affects the prefrontal cortex's "executive functioning" abilities:

  • Focusing
  • Prioritizing
  • Self-Monitoring
  • Inhibition
  • Judgement
  • Working Memory
  • Analysis

Because bilingual people must regularly select between paying attention to one language while ignoring the thoughts in another, the [part of their brains associated with focus and decision making become stronger than they otherwise would have. In fact, a study by the University of Kentucky College of Medicine recently proved just that. Bilingual participants completed tasks more quickly and with less effort than their monolingual counterparts.

Single Language Speaker?

Even if you weren't so lucky to grow up in as to grow up in a multi-language home, you can still benefit from learning a second language as adult! Learn a second language, improve your cultural knowledge, and protect your brain. Sounds like a win-win situation.

References:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/08/bilingual-brain-cognitive-flexibility_n_2432948.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

http://www.bradwarthen.com/2012/03/so-thats-why-i-dont-feel-as-smart-as-i-used-to/

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/radical-teaching/201211/bilingual-brains-smarter-faster

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opinion/sunday/the-benefits-of-bilingualism.html?_r=0

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2259469/Speaking-languages-childhood-keeps-brain-good-shape-age.html

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