Canadian scientists find speaking multiple languages increases mental dexterity
According a recent article from NewScientist.com, several Canadian scientists said on Jan. 12 that bilingualism can help delay the onset of dementia for many people.
Ben Grafstrom, a first year masters student in the East Asian languages and civilizations department, is studying Japanese. He began learning this new language when he was teaching English during 2000-2001 in Osaka, Japan.
“I felt my English ability decreased when I was in Japan. I kept making spelling mistake,” Grafstrom said.
He also said it is useful to learn a different language, but was hesitant to say it would delay dementia, which is a kind of disease.
“I think learning another language might cause some mental blocks, but I think it is because I am older. I have many other things to struggle with. That’s the main reason to cause the block. I think if a little kid is studying a second language, it couldn’t be a problem,” he said.
Andrew Cowell, associate professor of the French & Italian Department, said learning another language is good no matter what.
“Actually, if you learn another language between a certain age, you can never become fully bilingual,” Cowell said, “But it shouldn’t stop people learning a second language. Because it lets people understand their own language better.”
David Rood, a professor in the linguistics department, confirmed the article’s findings about bilingualism helping to delay the onset of dementia.
“Basically, the mental exercise of any kind helps to delay dementia,” Rood said. “Most of (which) because you end up increasing the area of contact you can make.”
As Rood pointed out, there are many other countries where bilingualism is more a part of everyday life compared to the use of it in America.
“The norm in most of the world is that people speak two or three languages,” Rood said. “In north Africa, for example, you speak the language with your family, you speak another language when you go to the market place or go to school, something like French or German. You just do this. In India, it’s very much the same.”
There are 6,000 different languages in the world, according to the introduction to the East Asian language and literature department. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that the critical period to learn a second language is between the ages of 12 and 13. However, this doesn’t come easy to everyone.
“It’s hard to learn another pattern, but it doesn’t mean you can’t learn,” Rood said.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Chen Zhang at firstname.lastname@example.org.