Mental and Health Risks Associated with Only Speaking One
[NPR News Report]
Scientists have found that bilingual seniors are better at skills
that can fade with age than their monolingual peers.
Not so long ago bilingualism was thought to be bad for your brain.
But it looks more and more like speaking more than one language
could help save you from Alzheimer's disease.
The latest evidence from the bilingualism-is-good-for-you crew comes
from Brian Gold, a neuroscientist at the University of Kentucky
College of Medicine in Lexington. To test the idea, he had older
people who grew up bilingual do an attention-switching task, a skill
that typically fades with age. Earlier research has found that
people bilingual since childhood are better at the high-order
thinking called executive function as they age.
Gold found that his bilingual seniors were better at the task, which
had them quickly sorting colors and shapes, than their monolingual
peers. He then added an extra dimension by sticking the people's
heads in scanners to see what was happening inside their brains. The
brains of the monolingual seniors were working harder to complete
the task, while the bilingual seniors' brains were much more
efficient, more like those of young adults.
Neuroscientists think that having more reserve brain power helps
compensate for age-related declines in thinking and memory, and may
help protect against the losses caused by Alzheimer's and other
forms of dementia. The study was published in the Journal of
About 20 percent of Americans are bilingual and as many as 60
percent of people in cities like New York grew up speaking two
Gold might not be an entirely unbiased observer: He became a fluent
bilingual as a child, thanks to the French immersion school he
attended in Montreal. He's old enough to remember when speaking two
languages was considered a handicap. He recalls a cousin ragging
him: "He said, 'You're not going to learn to speak English
properly'. Not only is that not true, but bilingualism gives you
benefits in what we call executive control."
Gold seldom speaks French now, though he has learned Spanish to talk
with his Mexican-born wife and her relatives. His next task is to
see if learning a second language in adulthood would give some
protective benefit to those of us who missed the chance to be
bilingual as children. That, he says, "would be more useful to
Profesor Robinson's Comments: Another mental benefit from
becoming bilingual the acquisition of global thinking, if the
language one is learning has a different culture. Each language
has its own thought process, and by learning a different way of
expressing the same idea we can, over time, break down and overcome
our own personal ethnic prejudices.
Both of these 3hEd websites strive to concentrate on what is
important when it comes to learning anything: a single composite attitude which
consists of humility, honesty and hunger. Without these core
components, education is just a meaningless word. The 3h
attitude, composed of three attributes, all beginning with the
letter H, work together to make any educational endeavour
beneficial because 1) it helps us become better people and
2) it also safeguards us from all the wrong information out there.
The first H (humility) helps us to keep focused on
WHY we learn, the second H (honesty) limits us to
WHAT we learn, and the last H (hunger)
determines WHEN we learn. This composite frame of mind
will be referred to as 3hEd (3-H Education.