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Mommas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Monolinguals

by Mike Newton on February 24th, 2011

Don’t let ‘em speak just one language–it sucks!  Let ‘em be trilingual and polyglots and such!

Okay, so it’s not exactly the same as the old song (“Mommas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys”), but that doesn’t make the statement any less true!

These days my Twitter feed is positively buzzing with links to new studies on the effect that learning two or more languages has on the brain.  I’m not at all surprised by what they’ve found.

Researchers have discovered that studying a foreign language can ward off cognitive impairment (Dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc.) later in life.  These findings are closely tied with what’s called the Cognitive Reserve Hypothesis (CRH).

To make a long story short, CRH basically suggests that mentally challenging activities such as playing chess exercise the brain much like you would exercise any other muscle in your body.  What could possibly be more taxing mentally (and emotionally!) than trying to communicate fluently in another language?

The good news doesn’t stop there.  These studies are showing that knowing three or more foreign languages can further increase the brain’s cognitive reserve by three to five times, respectively.  In other words, the more languages you know, the stronger (and safer) your brain is!

It is worth noting that while learning foreign language does have numerous benefits for your brain (and every other aspect of your life!), it cannot cure or prevent the disease, only delay it.  Maybe you’ll luck out and die before it actually manifests?

For more reading on the subject, check out TIME, ABC, and Northwestern University’s Medill Reports.

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