New research has revealed that learning a second language could have incredible benefits to our cognitive functions and could even help in the battle against Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Investigations carried out by the Director of Everest Language School, Anne-Marie Connolly, recently awarded a PhD from Trinity College Dublin, examined how learning languages and being bilingual affects the development, function and change of basic cognitive activities.
Dr Connolly discovered that learning another language, even late in life, can exert a positive effects on our brains.
She investigated the difference in ability of young bilinguals – which refers to anyone under seven with a second language – and late bilinguals, which covers anyone over 12 who had a second language.
Her studies demonstrated that late-bilinguals held an advantage, having to work harder to suppress their mother tongue and therefore giving their brain a tougher workout overall.
“The effort that a late-bilingual needs to put into suppressing the dominant mother tongue to select the less-dominant new language requires a far more intensive training regime for the cognitive system”, according to Dr Connolly.
She added that “This then extends beyond the linguistic system and results in a generalised fortification of the executive control system as a whole.”
Dr Connolly also investigated the long-term impact of bilingualism and compared active bilinguals with passive bilinguals, who had stopped using their second language.
Her investigation concluded that a clear cognitive advantage existed for active bilinguals.