Parlez-vous francais? If you answered yes, then you’re well on your way to enjoying the many benefits of bilingualism. Speaking both English and French, for example, can enrich your cultural experiences in multilingual destinations like Belgium, Morocco, or Egypt, and broaden your access to books, music, and films.

But the benefits of speaking another language aren’t limited to just cultural perks. “Studies have shown that bilingual individuals consistently outperform their monolingual counterparts on tasks involving executive control,” says Ellen Bialystok, a cognitive psychologist at York University. In other words, speaking more than one language can improve your ability to pay attention, plan, solve problems, or switch between tasks (like making sure you don’t miss your freeway exit while attending to your kids in the back seat). You may think it’s just higher intelligence that underlies these benefits, but evidence suggests otherwise. A 2014 study, for example, showed that those who learned a second language, in youth or adulthood, had better executive functions than those who didn’t, even after accounting for childhood IQ.

But the benefits don’t end there. Being bilingual, or multilingual, could lead to a longer, higher quality life. In a paper published in March, Bialystok and colleagues report that older individuals who speak more than one language have better cognitive performance and a later onset—around 4 to 5 years—of dementia than their monolingual peers. These striking cognitive benefits have profound public health implications. Delaying the onset of dementia by just a few years would drastically reduce rates of Alzheimer’s disease, which currently affects over 5 million Americans, and could cut healthcare costs by a third. “At present, the best defense against dementia is the set of stimulating cognitive activities that are considered to supply ‘cognitive reserve,’ things such as social groups, crossword puzzles, etc,” Bialystok says. “Bilingualism is another such activity but has the unique bonus of also enabling someone to speak another language—something that is certainly a net benefit in life.”
Source: Speaking Multiple Languages Staves Off Dementia – Facts So Romantic – Nautilus

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