Benefits of bilingualism
According to a report on ScienceDaily, speaking two languages may help stave off dementia by up four years compared to people who are monolingual. Being bilingual, along with physical activity, education and social engagement help to build “cognitive reserve”, which includes enhanced neural plasticity (the ability of nerve cells in the brain to change their function and to make new connections), compensatory use of alternative brain regions, and enriched brain blood supply, all of which are thought to delay the onset of dementia.
The study, which is published in the February 2007 issue of Neuropsychologia, compared the records of 184 patients at a clinic in Toronto, Canada. About half the patients studied were bilingual while the rest were monolingual. The researchers found that the mean age of onset of dementia symptoms in the monolingual group was 71.4 years, while the bilingual group was 75.5 years.
A similar study carried out a few years ago at York University in the UK demonstrated similar results.