Speaking more than one language has many positive effects.
A recent study spearheaded by Ellen Bialystok, distinguished research professor at York University and Associate Scientist at the Rotman Research Institute has shown that bilingual children who use a second language regularly are better at prioritising and performing multiple tasks compared to monolingual children. The health benefits reach as far as active against possible signs of Alzheimer's disease, new findings states.
Similar effects have been discovered in adults who speak more than one language. The use of different languages in the same conversation seems to stimulate the brain and creates a cognitive reserve. Ellen Bialystock explains the phenomena as "similar to the fuel reserve in a car. When you run out of petrol, you can still keep driving because there is a bit more in reserve."
The cognitive effects are greater when people use the language regularly, at work or in their daily lives. The most positive health benefits have been seen in people who speak at least two languages every day. This is the case of those who have migrated to another country and continue to speak their native language at home.
Bialystock and her team od researchers are now planning their next project: An analysis to see whether the use of two or more languages also causes any physical changes to the brain.
Meanwhile, Judith Kroll, a psychologist at Penn State University, defends the advantages of bilingualism in organizing multiple tasks, a key employment skill. Their findings strongly conflict with the general belief that speaking many languages creates confusion and disarray in the brain. Their research has clearly shown the opposite and that language has many more health benefits than has previously been assumed.
In support of this statement Jane Werker, psychologist at the University of British Columbia, Canada, notes that the benefits of being bilingual can begin in the uterus and that babies exposed to two languages means they develop a complex aptitude that makes it easier for them to learn languages in the future. The cognitive work required to maintain separate languages has many positive effects on various areas of our lives with much research going into the health benefits of language.
So far the findings have been unanimous: Being able to speak more than one language is one of the best ways to maintain your cognitive health and keep your brain active.
Being Bilingual may delay Alzheimer's and boost your Brain Power, The Guardian
To starve off Alzheimer's, Learn a Language? National Geographic