The advantage of being bilingual?

Being bilingual is an advantage ?

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Hi English speakers who want to Learn french 🙂 !

In this article i share with you : Are there advantages to become or to be bilingual ?

In the 21st century, the number of people over 60 has increased significantly. Estimates show that by 2015 their number has tripled. The older one is, the more likely one is to develop neuropathological disorders such as dementia.

Dementia is characterized by the gradual difficulty of learning and retaining new information.

Among the various factors that contribute to postpone the onset of dementia by several years :

  • Being bilingual throughout one's life.

Bilingualism preserves cognitive functions that tend to decline with age. This decline may result in a change in brain structure especially in the frontal brain regions, which are the headquarters of the executive functions. Also the loss of synaptic connections and the appearance of neuropathological symptoms associated with dementia. That is why is important to make your brain works !

Learning a language from the age of 60 participates in the construction of cognitive reserves, this is because language learning requires a large brain network whose activity overlaps with that of regions adversely affected by aging.

The so-called bilingual advantage (being bilingual) is related to the improvement of executive functions, cognitive flexibility and creative thinking.

Multilingualism (or being bilingual) is a better predictor of cognitive abilities than age, level of education, and gender. These cognitive advantages are materialized by neuronal modifications: from the age of 60, bilinguals have more white matter than monolinguals.

Bilinguals show :

  • Better performance in a task that requires attention to 2 elements of an image (color and shape). This in elderly and young people.
  • People who learn French as a second language are better at a task of grammatical judgment (ignore the conflict introduced by false semantic content). Also to a nonverbal visual task.

Several studies suggest that bilinguals have better non-linguistic cognitive abilities compared to monolinguals.

Brain regions that support cognitive control significantly overlap regions that are recruited for language control. So the more I ask these regions (the more I learn foreign languages) the more I strengthen my cognitive capacity and therefore my ability to be resilient in case of neurological or other problem.
The more I increase my cognitive reserve. The cognitive reserve is the capacity of resilience of the brain following a neuropathological problem.

Important scientific literature shows that being bilingual throughout one's life changes the structure of the brain. These changes can also be observed during short periods of language learning in healthy adults.

  • Gray matter volume increased
  • White matter increased
  • Increased cortical thickness
  • Greater hippocampal volume increase for interpreters, with proficiency related to right hippocampal volume
  • Foreign language training in students increased white matter including pathways in the right hemisphere, and correlated with gain in second language ability not observed in controls

Evidence of a protective effect of bilingualism on the incidence of dementia is considerable.

Here are some examples :

  • Being bilingual all his life delays the onset of dementia symptoms compared to monolinguals.
  • Learning a foreign language during childhood and adolescence leads to a lower risk of developing cognitive impairment in old age.
  • Bilingualism is associated with a delay in the onset of dementia also among the illiterate.

More generally, bilingualism delays the onset of neurodegenerative disease.

On the other hand, other studies show that being bilingual does not affect the delay in the onset of dementia.

  • No association between the diagnosis of dementia among bilinguals (between people who have learned English as a second language and bilinguals by birth).
  • Adults who learn English have better memory and more developed executive functions than monolinguals, but bilingualism is not associated with cognitive decline or dementia.
  • No difference in timing of onset of dementia in Gaelic-English bilingual vs English monolingual.

Why studies differ ? → One of the reasons is because it is very difficult to obtain an objective definition of what bilingualism is.

English speakers who want to Learn french, what is your definition of being a bilingual ?

Conclusion : being bilingual is an advantage ?

Younger I learned a language more it helps to keep my brain healthy, or not 🙂 ?

Tell me in the comments what do you think about it.

Here is the article I read to write the article you just finished to read.

Antoniou, M., & Wright, S. M. (2017). Uncovering the Mechanisms Responsible for Why Language Learning May Promote Healthy Cognitive Aging. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 2217.

Thanks for reading this article 🙂

What do you want to learn about the French language? What are your needs ?

Tell me in the comments, I will write an article about it !

Thomas Ricomard

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