Thursday, May 8, 2008

Being Multi-lingual Improves Mental Fitness

Knowing and speaking a second or third language may protect the brain against the cognitive decline associated with aging.

A study conducted by Dr. Gitit Kavé from the Herczeg Institute on Aging at Tel Aviv University concludes that seniors who are multi-lingual do better on cognitive functioning tests. Dr. Kavé is a clinical neuro-psychologist.

Previous research has indicated that education plays a large role in preserving mental fitness as we age, but it appears that speaking two or more languages has even a greater impact than education.

Why would language have such an impact? Speaking another language could be like exercise for the brain , strengthening it. It may create new links in the brain, increasing its plasticity.

But whether or not being multilingual was the main reason for the results, Dr. Kavé thinks that learning a new language is always a positive experience.

While the controversy continues as to whether or not parents should introduce their young children to a second language, Kavé thinks that learning a new language is only a good thing, even if it isn’t intended to stave off mental decline in old age.

“In my professional opinion, learning a new language can only do good things,” she believes. “Other languages are good for you at any age. They allow for a flexibility of thought and a channel for understanding another culture better, as well as your own,” says Kavé.

TAU Study Finds Connection Between Mental Fitness and Multi-Lingualism


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