Why Being Bilingual Is Good for You -- Time to Get Rosetta Stone?

New research states that speaking more than one language can defer dementia-yet the heath benefits won't help those who are late hopping on the bilingual bus

You’re in luck if you speak more than one language. A recent study published in the journal Neurology states that people who are bilingual tend to develop dementia about five to six years later than those without a foreign tongue. While this information confirms previous research, it added another interesting nugget -- this delayed diagnosis was also evident in illiterate people. Therefore, formal education played no role in “brain power.”

Study experts from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland reviewed the medical records of 648 people from a city in India. They chose this region because during the course of a typical day, most people living in India speak between two and three languages.

As reported by USA Today, more than 50 percent of the patients they examined were multilingual and had already been diagnosed with dementia. Those who spoke one language began suffering from the initial stages of dementia (i.e. memory loss and confusion) around the age of 61.1. Those who were fluent in more than one language didn’t begin to show signs until the age of 65.6.

Great! So what are the single-language people supposed to do with this information? I can’t be the only one who considers learning a new language to be a challenge, especially since some studies indicate it’s more difficult to grasp a second language as an adult. Also, the researchers themselves point out that there is no proof that learning a different language in adulthood does much of anything. So, basically, if speaking Italian is on your bucket list, then by all means take a course, rent a foreign flick with subtitles…or grab your credit card and buy the latest software from Rosetta Stone. As for the rest of us?

Understand that, generally, keeping your brain active is key to keeping it healthy. Various research over the years has shown that increasing oxygen to the brain (by means of exercising and meditation, to name a couple) and challenging your mind (i.e. reading, working and playing crossword puzzles) can be beneficial. So, sure, learning a different language later in life might be a good brain stimulator. But so is picking up a book or playing a game of scrabble -- in any language.

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