Research carried out during the last few years has shown that learning a second language, regardless of gender or race, can enhance children’s overall mental development. This results in increased language skills, self-esteem, thinking and reasoning skills and maths ability plus earlier reading. For example:
Maths: a second language increases the ability to solve complex problems
English: a second language increases the vocabulary available to a child. This results in both languages reinforcing each other, giving the bilingual child an edge over their mono-linguistic contemporaries. Children can learn much about English by learning structures and words in other languages.
Parents report that their children are learning a third and fourth languages more easily, particularly when the new language shares a similar alphabet or language structure. Research has also shown that bilinguals develop superior writing and reading skills.
Learning another language has been shown to enhance cultural understanding. Being able to speak to people from different countries and cultures exposes the child to different ways of thinking, different attitudes, habits and views. It also opens new doors. As a result, children learn early on that there is more than one way to everything.
Bilingual children, in another study, who had been exposed to a second language from an early age proved to have a greater density of grey matter, i.e. that part of the brain which is responsible for processing information, including memory, speech and sensory perception. By providing your child with the opportunity to learn a new language, you are giving them a gift that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
LEARNING a second language helps stave off dementia by an extra five years, medics claim.
And the sooner you pick up foreign speech, the greater the protective effect.
Experts found being bilingual helps build brain power.
These greater “cognitive reserves” mean a person is able to keep dementia at bay for longer.
Italian scientists carried out brain scans on 85 patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Half the participants spoke two languages, while the rest only spoke one.
Scientists found bilingual patients were on average five years older at the same stage of the disease.
And scans revealed they had stronger connectivity in the decision making part of their brain.
Experts believe this slows the damage caused by disease.
The team from Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Italy also found the longer a person was bilingual, the stronger the protective effect.
Lead researcher Professor Daniela Perani said: “Overall, these findings strongly suggest that bilingual individuals with Alzheimer’s disease compensate better for the loss of brain structure and function.
“It suggests the earlier you learn another language and the more you use it, the greater the protective effect.”
The research is published in the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Dementia affects around 850,000 Brits, with Alzheimer’s responsible for the majority of cases.
And the number is forecast to hit one million in under a decade and two million by 2051.
There is no effective treatment, with current medications only helping to slow down the symptoms.
Dr Clare Walton, Research Manager at Alzheimer’s Society, said the study reveals how speaking an extra language protects the brain.
She said: “This elegant study provides new evidence that people who are fluent in more than one language have some protection against dementia.
“Brain scans showed that lifelong bilinguals have stronger connections between certain brain areas compared to those who only speak one language – this appears to allow their brains to cope better with damage before they start to show outward signs of dementia.”
And Dr David Reynolds, Chief Scientific Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said bilingual adults have more “resilient” brains.
He said: “There is increasing evidence that being bilingual throughout life could increase our cognitive reserve.
“This study shows there are differences in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s who are fully bilingual that could explain why they are resilient to damage.
“The findings lend weight to the theory that keeping the brain active may provide a form of cognitive reserve, helping to delay the onset of symptoms as diseases like Alzheimer’s develop.”
New Year's Eve has always been a time of reflection on what has been and preparing for what is to come. While each culture's New Year celebration has its own flavor, there are certain common themes. The period leading up to New Year's Day is a time for setting things straight: a thorough housecleaning, paying off debts, returning borrowed objects, reflecting on one's shortcomings, mending quarrels, giving alms. In many cultures, people jump into the sea or a local body of water-literally washing the slate clean. Some of the top 10 New Year's Resolutions:
1. Spend more time with Family and Friends. This top resolution is one that can be far reaching. Make plans to meet up with friends for an evening or take the time to call your family more often.
2. Fit in Fitness. Making time to take part in regular exercise has been associated in more health benefits that anything else known to man.
3. Tame the Bulge. Over 75% of adults are considered overweight or obese so it isn't surprising that weight loss is up in the top few resolutions.
4. Quit Smoking. This is a fantastic resolution that will not only save you money but also to improve your health and vitality.
5. Enjoy Life More. Make the decision to reduce your stress and make a happier and healthier you.
6. Quit Drinking. If you have decided to handle this resolution and you have a real issue there are a number of treatment based programs, as well as support groups for families.
7. Get out of Debt. Reduce the amount of stress in your life and put some plans in place to reduce your indebtedness. Whether it is refinancing, cutting up your credit card or just living within your means it is definitely worth making an effort.
8. Learn something new. Have you vowed to make this year the year to learn something new? Perhaps you are considering a career change, want to learn a new language, or just how to fix your computer?
9. Help Others. A popular, non selfish idea which can benefit not only yourself but also assist those less fortunate.
10. Get organised. This can be a very reasonable goal. Whether you want your home, office or family more organised, you should make a list, get some help or advice if organisation isn't your strong point, or just have a go.
These blogs are about learning a foreign language and how utilising that skill can help to keep your mind active and assist with your cognitive function.