Joanne Gallacher
By Joanne Gallacher

Bilingual children learn better and faster

Bilingual children have an educational advantage

It seems that all those long hours spent in class learning a new language may have been worth it after all.

Bilingual children learn better

MRI scans have shown that life-long bilinguals appeared to be using their brains more efficiently, which increased their speed and agility. Plus, it seems pensioners are benfitting too.

New research finally confirms that regular stimulation of mental activity throughout your life keeps your brain active. However, a study from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine found that senior citizens who spoke two languages since being a child were faster at switching from one task to another than those who only spoke one language.

As people age, cognitive flexibility - the ability to adapt to unfamiliar or unexpected circumstances - and related 'executive' brain functions decline. Recent studies suggest this decline could be stemmed by speaking more than one language - a boost that may stem from the experience of constantly switching between languages.

The latest study revealed how the number of tongues you speak affects brain activity.

And now it's believed that switching between languages improves brain activity. The team which was led by Dr Brian Gold used MRI scans to compare brain activity of healthy 60 to 68-year-olds while they completed mentally challenging tasks.

Within the tests they found that both monolingual and bilingual seniors performed the task accurately. However, those who spoke two or more languages were much faster at completing the tasks. 

Dr Brian Gold concluded that: 'This suggests that bilingual seniors use their brains more efficiently than monolingual seniors. 'Together, these results suggest that lifelong bilingualism may exert its strongest benefits on the functioning of frontal brain regions in aging.'

Dr Gold's team suggested that  more research would be needed to see if learning another tongue later in life could be as beneficial. The findings were published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

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