Study Shows Learning a Second Language can Improve Brain Function as We Age

It’s never too late to learn a second language, and doing so–even later in life–can have beneficial effects as we age, a new study says.

It’s been shown before that bilingual people are more likely to resist the onset of dementia for up to several years, but researchers from the University of Edinburg recently looked at “whether learning a new language improved cognitive functions or whether individuals with better cognitive abilities were more likely to become bilingual.”

It’s a chicken-and-egg problem that the researchers think they’ve cracked.

From BBC News:

The findings indicate that those who spoke two or more languages had significantly better cognitive abilities compared to what would have been expected from their baseline test.

The strongest effects were seen in general intelligence and reading.

The effects were present in those who learned their second language early, as well as later in life.

Dr Bak said the pattern they found was “meaningful” and the improvements in attention, focus and fluency could not be explained by original intelligence.

“These findings are of considerable practical relevance. Millions of people around the world acquire their second language later in life. Our study shows that bilingualism, even when acquired in adulthood, may benefit the aging brain.”

While people often think it’s too late to learn a second language, the truth is that there’s no better time than the present if you have the time to commit to it and the desire to learn!

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