Speak a Second Language? Learn a Third!

June 14, 2014

If there was ever a good time to learn a new language, it may be now.  Aging baby boomers looking for tools to ward off dementia may find an answer in their high school text books.

Research conducted at Edinburgh University shows that the mere attempt to learn a new language, no matter how poor a job you do at it, may help keep symptoms of dementia under control.  The research took years to complete.  Study leaders recruited participants aged 70 and over whose mother tongue was English and who could read and write in another language.  They also compared the IQs of these participants with their IQs from tests performed when they were children.  The results are that no matter what your age, the benefits of learning another language are the same.

Each of the study volunteers were fond to have better than average IQ and performed more highly in cognitive tests that people who could only speak a one language.  Importantly, the study also found that those who learned a language later in life actually raised their intelligence.

Keeping our brains healthy is, in many ways, no different than exercising our bodies. We need to exercise and stay at it regularly.  The activity of struggling to find the right word, the right verb form, is hugely beneficial. If you already speak a foreign language, learn another one.  Researchers found that complete fluency does not challenge cognitive processes as much as the learning process itself.


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