If you speak both English and spanish, there’s some really good news. Researchers at the University of Ghent have found that learning and speaking more than one language could delay the onset of dementia by as many as four or five years.
For the study, researchers examined the case history of 69 monolingual patients and 65 bilingual patients, all of which were undergoing treatment for probable Alzheimer’s disease. The analysis revealed that both manifestation and diagnosis of the neurodegenerative disease occurred four to five years later for Belgians who spoke more than one language.
The researchers found that the average age of diagnosis for Alzheimer’s patients who only speak one language was 73. For bilinguals, the age was 77. For some, multilingualism delayed onset by five years.
But there are even more benefits and advantages of speaking more than one language. A separate study at Northwestern University, which was published in the journal Brain and Language, found that people who speak two languages may have brains that are more efficient at language processing and other tasks.
The study’s leader, Viorica Marian, a linguistic psychologist at Northwestern University, says that bilinguals are constantly activating both languages in their brain, choosing which to use and which to ignore. “Bilinguals are much better at ignoring irrelevant words,” Marian said.
Being bilingual also makes it easier to learn a third and even fourth language. Just imagine the benefits of adding French or Mandarin to your linguistic repetoir!