Saturday, 4 June 2011
BILINGUALISM IS GOOD FOR YOUR BRAIN
FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES
Q. Bilingualism used to be considered a negative thing — at least in the United States. Is it still?
A. Until about the 1960s, the conventional wisdom was that bilingualism was a disadvantage. Some of this was xenophobia. Thanks to science, we now know that the opposite is true.
Q. Many immigrants choose not to teach their children their native language. Is this a good thing?
A. I’m asked about this all the time. People e-mail me and say, “I’m getting married to someone from another culture, what should we do with the children?” I always say, “You’re sitting on a potential gift.”
There are two major reasons people should pass their heritage language onto children. First, it connects children to their ancestors. The second is my research: Bilingualism is good for you. It makes brains stronger. It is brain exercise.
A cognitive neuroscientist, Ellen Bialystok has spent almost 40 years learning about how bilingualism sharpens the mind. Her good news: Among other benefits, the regular use of two languages appears to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.