Bilingualism and Dementia

Various studies state that learning a second language is much easier when you are younger and in the “critical period”, when your brain is more absorbent. This could be the reason why many of us shy away from taking on the challenge of learning another language in our later years, because we think it will be too hard or too time consuming.

However, there are various pieces of research that point towards the health and social benefits which bilingualism could potentially have in later life. Several studies and scholars suggest that being able to speak two or more languages could delay the onset of three different types of dementia. Studies have shown that the age at which dementia symptoms start to show is higher for those who are bilingual, with around four to five years’ difference.

The particular part of the brain that is used to learn a second language, and also to switch between two languages, if exercised often, could be what delays onset of dementia. People who are fluent in several languages, and have been for the majority of their lives, have shown stronger brain connections than those who speak just one language.

In addition to this, learning a second language in later life can improve people’s social lives and their ability to immerse themselves into different cultures whilst travelling or reconnecting with their roots.

There is no definitive study that can prove people who speak two or more languages have delayed onset of dementia, but the studies and their interesting results have definitely given us some food for thought.

Maybe we should all start learning a second language, what's stopping us?

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