Studies have shown that bilingualism can strengthen a child’s brain into adulthood

Key points

  • The bilingual brain is more complete than the monolingual brain.
  • Speaking a second language is equivalent to learning to play an instrument and other complex tasks.
  • Bilingualism can delay the occurrence of cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s

A recent study found that bilingualism has a positive effect on brain structure.In studying how bilingualism affects children’s growth to adult brains, the study was published in Brain structure and function, Examined the brains of participants aged 3 to 21 years. Researchers explored whether the brains of people who speak multiple languages ​​have more or less gray matter brain material than the brains of people who only speak one language.of

This research is significant because it attempts to confirm beliefs surrounding the intelligence of bilingual children. It is generally believed that bilingual children are at a developmental disadvantage compared to their peers who only speak one language at home.

What the research found

Research results show that bilinguals have more gray matter and more complete white matter. What does this show? Gray matter controls most daily functions, including motor skills and memory. For most people, the density of gray matter increases until puberty.For bilinguals with more gray matter, this may mean that their aging brains are actually younger than those of monolinguals.of

Although gray matter is an area related to language, including learning and processing, there are also differences in white matter. MRI shows that white matter changes with the completion of complex tasks.

A 2010 study found that the white matter of the bilingual brain is more complete than the monolingual brain, because the task of understanding and speaking more than one language is not easy.The change in white matter is similar to that of a musician who has played an instrument for hours or someone who learns to juggle, which makes sense.

Understanding the influence of the second language on the subcortical structure is not consistent, which is more beneficial to the practitioner. In recent studies, the most significant changes in volume have been found in the brains of people who are often immersed in a second language.

As a result, the myth is dispelled

The new discovery overturns the previous misunderstanding that bilingual children will have developmental delays or unable to master any language.

Sophie Niedermaier-Patramani, MD, a pediatrician who grew up in a bilingual family, explained: “It is true that children who grow up bilingually start talking later than their peers, but this usually happens within the normal developmental window. Understanding words and simple requests Ability usually develops at the same rate.” Although children may speak slower, their understanding will not be affected.

Sophie Niedermaier-Patramani, MD

Bilingual help them [children] Respond quickly in difficult situations and develop strong communication skills.

— Sophie Niedermaier-Patramani, Doctor of Medicine

Another misunderstanding is that bilingual children can confuse the language.Niedermaier-Patramani said this was wrong. “This misunderstanding stems from the fact that bilingual children often use two languages ​​in a sentence at first. This is not caused by confusion, but by the ability of bilingual children to float between the two languages.” Once These children become more socialized, and they begin to separate languages.

The ability to distinguish and switch languages ​​demonstrates the problem-solving skills associated with speaking multiple languages. “According to Niedermaier-Patramani, this helps them [children] Respond quickly in difficult situations and develop strong communication skills. ”

How do these findings help us?

The increase in gray matter slows the aging of the brain, but after a period of time, it may return to its baseline level. This could explain the link between bilingualism and Alzheimer’s disease. An Ecuadorian researcher compiled the results of six studies from different countries. These studies have been conducted for more than 20 years, and they all point to late-onset dementia, including Alzheimer’s. This delay proved to be about five years.

The benefits are not limited to dementia, but also extend to stroke patients. A 2016 study found that bilingualism causes less cognitive impairment after ischemic stroke-40.5% of bilinguals have normal cognitive function, while the proportion of monolinguals is only 19.6%.This is believed to be the result of a greater cognitive reserve.

Recent research not only supports the use of language immersion, but also attempts to explain or disprove misleading views about children and young people who use more than one language. They will not be hindered in any way by trying to distinguish each language. Instead, they are being challenged in a way that leads to the steady growth and development of their brains.